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Riga stalemate

Crvena zvezda started the season with a 0-0 draw at Spartaks Jūrmala in the Champions League First Qualifying Round. The champions of Serbia dominated the match, but couldn't find the goal they deserved.
Ground: Skonto Stadium, Riga
Attendance: 4,000
Referee: Mykola Balakin (Ukraine)
Spartaks: Nerugals, Freimanis, Kosorić, Ošs, Šlampe, Maleev, Silva Honorato, Dmitriev, Višņakovs, Svarups, Kobzar.
Substitutes: Melecis, Žigajevs, Stuglis, Aguirre, Smith Medina, Mihadjuks, Davydov.
Crvena zvezda: Borjan, Stojković, Savić, Babić, Rodić, Jovičić, Krstičić, Ben, Radonjić, Milić, Stojiljković.
Substitutes: Popović, Gobeljić, Degenek, Milijaš, Jevtović, Ebecilio, Pavkov.
Crvena zvezda were firm favorites in this match in Latvia and it showed. Vladan Milojević’s team had most of the possession, created a number of chances, but was ultimately left frustrated by Spartaks.
Nikola Stojiljković was handed his Zvezda debut, but it was unfortunately cut short after the big striker picked up an injury that forced him off early on. Milan Pavkov took his place and led the line for the most of the match.
Spartaks’ players are all match fit, as Latvian league is in full swing, and it showed in comparison to Crvena zvezda players who were often nervous on the ball, lacking a bit of urgency. 
Pavkov has had a great chance to make the possession count on 41 minutes as he pounced on a loose ball in Spartaks’ area. However, he rushed his shot, putting it just wide with a hooked volley. It happened just minutes after Ben had blasted over from a great Radonjić left-hand side cross.
At that point it looked like Red Star, clad in their new gray away kit, built the momentum needed to make the breakthrough, but first half ended with no further opportunities.
Spartaks were left relying on counter-attacks and have mounted a couple that were dealt with by our defenders.
Lorenzo Ebecilio made his debut at the beginning of the second half as he replaced Nemanja Milić. But the team looked flat and bereft of ideas as the host sensed that they might sneak a goal.
El Fardou Ben Nabouhane was full of running and was arguably our most influential player today. However, he couldn’t take another chance on 74 minutes as he fired wide after a good penetrating run.
There were some late scares as well, with Borjan saving his team late on when a defensive mix-up allowed Spartaks in. That was the last chance on either side as the referee blew for full time shortly after.
Every beginning is tough and so it proved today for the red and whites. Vladan Milojević and his players will have another chance of defeating the champions of Latvia in six days when these teams meet again. See you at Rajko Mitić Stadium!


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