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© RIA Novosti. Alexei Danichev

Russia loses Champions League spot

by at 18/03/2011 12:08

 

Double defeat in the Europa League means Russia will lose a lucrative Champions League spot for the 2012/13 season.

Zenit and CSKA both bowed out in the last 16, leaving Spartak as Russia’s last remaining representative in Europe.

And that, coupled with the march of three Portuguese teams, sees Russia slip down the UEFA rankings and lose one spot in the top competition.

 

Not so champion

Currently Russia’s top two are fast-tracked to the group stage of the Champions League, with the third-placed side going into the qualifying rounds.

And while that system will remain in place for Zenit, CSKA and Rubin when the next edition of the tournament kicks off in the autumn, from 2012 only the title winners will go directly into the group stage while the runners-up slug it out among the qualifiers.

With Porto, Benfica and Braga still in the competition – Porto knocking out CSKA along the way – the Portuguese have inched ahead.

And even if Spartak go on to win the tournament they won’t be able to make up enough ground to wrest Russia’s place back.

The Russian Cup winner and teams taking 3-5 places in the league table will play in Europa League.

 

CSKA burned by the Dragons

The Army Men lost to Porto again, but managed to at least break their jinx and score against the Dragons.

Porto’s incredible Hulk opened the scoring in the 50th second with a curling free-kick that missed all the players and bounced off the ground before ricocheting off the goalpost past stunned goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev.

The second goal on 24 minutes after Akinfeyev was sent scurrying after a poor Sergei Ignashevich backpass. The ball was intercepted by James Rodríguez, who crossed for Fredy Guarin to slot into the empty goal.

Zoran Tosic pulled one back for the Army Men just before half hour, when he scored after a through pass from Alan Dzagoyev, but they never looked likely to turn the tie around.

 

Zenit in mourning

Zenit and Twente were ordered to play their game despite the death of goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev’s wife on the morning of the match.

UEFA refused to allow the clubs to postpone the match; the players worse black armbands and messages in support of Malafeyev, but the decision to go ahead left a sour taste.

 

Victory is not enough

Chasing a 3-0 deficit from the first leg, Zenit’s 2-0 win was not enough.

Roman Shirokov opened the scoring for Zenit on the 16th minute when he slotted in the rebound after his own shot hit the post. The team, however, did not celebrate.

Seven minutes before half time Alexander Kerzhakov scored the second from another rebound, this time after a poor clearance from Twente’s Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolai Mikhailov.

This time there were also no celebrations, and Kerzhakov, godfather of Malafeyev’s daughter, only showed his shirt with a message of support for Zenit’s goalkeeper.

The draw that will determine Spartak’s next opponent in Europe will take place on Friday, at 3pm Moscow time.

 

 

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