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Cruel finish for Kazakhstan

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

By Timur Kamashev at Centralny stadium

[1] A goal in added time from substitute Ruslan Rotan brought a cruel end to the European competitive debut of the Kazakhstan national team, just as they looked set to earn a point against Group 2 rivals Ukraine.

Sell-out crowd

[2] Rotan scored on 90 minutes after the ball fell his way following a free-kick by Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Kazakhstan had earlier fought back to cancel out Olexiy Byelik's 14th-minute opener for Ukraine, Andrey Karpovitch equalising on 35 minutes to spark frenzied celebrations among the home supporters in the sold-out Centralny stadium in Almaty.

President present

[3] Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev was among the spectators present for the first competitive international since the country became a UEFA member in April 2002. However, they saw the more experienced Ukrainians control the early exchanges and take the lead when Byelik - starting in the absence of the injured Andriy Shevchenko - latched on to a long pass, shook off two defenders and scored with a precise finish past Yuriy Novikov.

Positive response

[4] The hosts responded positively and threatened several times on the counterattack. They got their reward when Karpovitch made it 1-1 shortly after the half-hour. Murat Tleshev received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area and crossed to Ruslan Baltiyev, who headed on to Karpovitch and the striker gave Olexander Shovkovskiy no chance from point-blank range.

Blokhin unhappy

[5] Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin, who had demanded nothing less than three points here, was clearly unhappy with his side's first-half performance and made changes at the break. Defender Mykhaylo Starostyak made way for Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker Andriy Voronin in the second half, and Kazakhstan were forced increasingly on to the back foot.

Close call

[6] Goalkeeper Novikov was in impressive form, though, for the home side and they were holding firm. Indeed they almost snatched a second goal at the other end on 65 minutes, when Baltiyev connected with a cross from Maxim Nizovtsev and sent the ball just wide of the goal.

First to rebound

[7] Two minutes later Blokhin made another substitution and it would win Ukraine the match. Rotan replaced captain Andriy Husin and he popped up to save Ukraine's blushes in injury time. Tymoschuk unleashed a powerful free-kick from 20 metres and although Novikov blocked his effort, Rotan was first to the rebound to make it 2-1.

Olexiy Byelik scored Ukraine's opener

Andrey Karpovitch equalised for Kazakhstan