Greece comeback to qualify for elite round of U-19 Euro Championships
UEFA U19 EURO 2018 QUALIFYING - QUALIFYING ROUND
|Greece U19||2 - 1||Russia U19|
Greece qualified for the elite round of the Under-19 European Championships on Tuesday after producing a stunning comeback to beat Russia 2-1 at the Theodoros Vardynoyiannis stadium in Iraklion, Crete to claim the second qualifying spot in Group 1 behind section winners Romania.
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A penalty from goalkeeper Marios Siampanis just before half-time and a great strike from Dimitris Emmanouilidis in the 77th minute cancelled out Nayair Tiknizyan’s opener for the Russians, who had two players sent off in the closing minutes as tempers and frustrations boiled over.
The final whistle was greet with wild celebrations among the players and 1,500 fans who turned out at OFI Crete’s cramped, retro ground which made for an electric atmosphere.
It all means that Greece will now take part in the elite qualiying round of the competition which starts up again in March 2018, with the draw for the groups to take place in December.
Greece, who are coached for former Panathinaikos defender Giannis Goumas, started in determined mood, making all the early running as they probed for an opening goal.
Winger Thanasis Konstanasios had his team’s first team of goal after eight minutes, but he fired a powerful shot into the side netting from the edge of penalty area with Russian goalkeeper Ivan Lomaev struggling to get across his line.
Greece continued to come forward but the Russians were well set-up, especially in defense, and they managed to shut the hosts down whenever they tried to get into the final third.
Then, just as it seemed that the home side’s pressure would pay off, Russia went 1-0 ahead against the run of play thanks to a lightning quick counter attack, Tiknizyan slotting home at the second attempt after his initial shot was parried by Siampanis.
To their credit, however, Greece didn’t lose heart, and they were handed the chance to get on level terms just before half-time when Russia captain Artem Golubev handled the ball in the box.
Eyebrows were raised when Siampanis trotted forward to pick up the ball and place it on the penalty spot, but the PAOK goalkeeper then exploded with a passionate roar when he sent Lomanev the wrong way to slot home the penalty to make it 1-1.
The pattern of the game continued in the second half, with Giorgos Xanitidis hitting the bar with a looping first-time shot in the 58 minute, while Siampanis had to be at best to eny Dmitri Tsypchenko on another counter attack.
The crucial moment finally came in 13 minutes from full time though when captain Kostas Chatzidimpas’ raking pass found substitute Emmanouilidis in space. The winger surged forward and still had work to do, skipping past a couple of defenders before beating Lomaev with a powerful shot which he could only palm into the net.
Russia then chased an equaliser desperately in the closing stages, and tempers flared with Tiknizyan and defender Sergei Borodin seeing red for violent conduct.