A week ago, Krasnodar won one of its major victories in history. At the Dragau stadium, Murad Musaev’s wards sensationally defeated the Portuguese Porto and entered the Champions League qualifying playoffs. But in order to get into the group stage of the tournament for the first time in history, the “bulls” need to overcome one more obstacle. She became the silver medalist of the championship of Greece season-2018/19 "Olympiakos".
Unlike Krasnodar, the red-and-white started their way into the main European club tournament with the second round of selection. This is due to the fact that at the moment, the Greek Football Super League takes only 14th place in the UEFA ranking, and not one of its representatives falls into the Champions League directly. So, Olympiacos and PAOK are forced to break through qualifications, but if the team from Piraeus made it to the playoffs, the current champion could not cope with this task. At the previous stage, the black and white bits were Ajax.
“Olympiacos”, though it was not sown too high, but until now it looked overconfident. First, the wards of Pedro Martins prevailed over the participant of the last Champions League draw “Victoria” from Pilsen, and then they sorted out the star “Istanbul”, the colors of which are protected by Gael Clichy, Elgero Elia, Arda Turan and Robinho. At the same time, for all four matches, the Greeks did not miss a single goal, and the difference between goals scored and goals conceded was 7: 0.
All this indicated that Olympiacos should not be considered a weak opponent against the backdrop of Porto. Of course, the Greeks are not such regulars in the Champions League, but they are also present there quite often. So, their last performance in the group stage is dated to the 2017/18 season, however, then they looked unimportant and scored only one point in six matches. However, two years earlier they finished in third place with nine points and only in additional indicators lost to London Arsenal in the struggle for a ticket to the 1/8 finals.
The situation of Krasnodar was complicated by the absence of two leaders. Due to injuries, participation in Greece did not fly Ari and Alexander Martynovich. The forward continues to recover from an injury to the back of the thigh, and the captain was injured in a game with Tambov. The first at the base was expectedly replaced by Marcus Berg, who did not miss a single match in the qualifying tournament, and the second in the center of defense was taken by John Goodni Fjoluson.
However, the most unexpected was the absence of Magomed Shapi-Suleymanov in the starting lineup of the “bulls”. The pupil of the team became the protagonist of the return match with Porto and chalked up two beautiful goals, but this time he was on the bench. His place at the base was taken by Younes Namli, who recovered from his injury.
In the hosts, the most noteworthy was the person of Mathieu Valbuena. The midfielder managed to be remembered by Russian fans for his performances for Dynamo and even at 34 years old continues to be a cool footballer. The Frenchman, as expected, was at the start, and the company on the field was made up of the Portuguese winger Daniel Podense and the pupil of Manchester City Guillerme.
The proximity to the debut in the Champions League, “Krasnodar” recalled the anthem of the European tournament, which sounded before the match. Previously, most of the “bulls” heard it only on TV, so this fact could not affect the mood of the players. The work of George Friedrich Handel gave way to the whistle of local fans, rightly considered one of the most violent in Europe. Last year, Russian journalists, who had hardly left the Tumba Stadium in Thessaloniki, felt this very well.
As owners, Olympiacos began the match very actively and quickly took the initiative into their own hands. True, his footballers were not marked by ingenuity and mainly relied on casts into the penalty area. Podense and Giorgios Masuras intensively “loaded” the ball into the possession of Matvey Safonov, but the defenders acted at the height.
Krasnodar responded only at the end of the first ten minutes of the meeting, but immediately had a chance to earn a penalty. Wanderson found himself in the penalty box of an opponent and rally struck the goal of Jose de Sa, but the defender got in the way. The repetition clearly shows how the ball fell into his hand, but referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande did not point to the “point” after consultations with the referee of the VAR system, who worked on this match.
Matveev’s wards gradually began to push the game away from their goal, but Remy Cabella’s injury knocked down the “bulls”. In the fight against Omar Elabdellaui, the French midfielder stumbled unsuccessfully and was injured. Despite the pain, he tried to continue the meeting, but four minutes later he was forced to leave the field. Instead, the Swede Kristoffer Olsson appeared on the lawn of the Karaiskakis Arena.
Black and green were not ready for the loss of such an important player as Cabella, and failed the second half. Red and white took advantage of the confusion in the ranks of the opponent and five minutes later opened an account. Ruslan Kombolov made a mistake in his half of the field, and Masuras caught the ball and delivered it to Miguel Guerrero. The Spanish forward with the first touch processed the transfer, and the second struck precisely into the corner of Safonov’s goal.
The stands began to drive their players forward, and the guests were completely at a loss. Even before the break, Olympiacos could lead with a difference of three or four goals, but Podense's sweeping blow from the penalty line was not accurate enough, and Uros Spaijic blocked the Valbuena attempt.
The beginning of the second half showed that Krasnodar needed replacements. The guests could not even organize a semblance of a dangerous attack, and the only striker Berg looked like a foreign element and wandered alone in the alien half of the field. Instead of Namli, the coaching staff released Suleymanov instead. Magomed-Shapi coolly joined the game and with the first touch could restore parity, but the ball flew above the crossbar.
Berg also left the field very soon. Before the substitution, he, being completely alone, received a transfer a few meters from the penalty box and instead of going out alone with the goalkeeper made a not-so-logical decision and struck from afar. The ball fell off its feet and flew past the alignment, and after a few seconds, Ivan Ignatiev was replaced by Markus.
However, the best replacement was Martins. At the 75th minute, Lazar Rangelovic entered the field instead of Masuras, and only three minutes later he marked his first goal for Olympiacos. Valbuena led the hosts' lightning attack, and the Serb turned out to be just two touches to redirect the ball into the net.
“Krasnodar” went forward, but was no longer able to provide decent resistance. The team tried to control the ball in half of the opponent’s field, but there was no strength to go back. The hosts again carried out a smashing counterattack, and in just seven minutes Rangelovic scored a double. Serb opened at the border of the penalty area and irresistibly knocked the ball into the goal. Safonov was expecting a blow to the opposite corner and could no longer save his partners.
This goal brought the “bulls” into a state of grogging, but they were knocked out by the mocking goal of Podense. Bukhalakis in one pass cut off the entire defensive line of the southerners, and the Portuguese with one touch threw the ball over Safonov, who threw himself across the line.
Even with this score, the bulls tried to attack in the hope of scoring a prestige goal, but the efforts were in vain. In the final episode of the meeting Ignatiev hit the head, but the ball flew far from the target. “Krasnodar” has largely lost to “Olympiakos” at a party and almost lost the chances of reaching the group stage of the Champions League. In his field, wards of Murad Musaev must create a miracle and beat their rivals with a difference of five goals.