Russia progressed to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Round of 16 with a nervy and tense victory against a spirited South Africa side. The Amajimbos head home, bottom of Group F courtesy of Georgy Makhatadaze's early penalty and his stunning late free kick, but they pushed and pressed in an uncomfortable finish to the game for the European side.
Russia opened the scoring in the opening exchanges, and star striker Fedor Chalov played a key part. The CSKA Moscow man skipped past Thendo Mukumela and the defender took down the forward in the penalty area. Captain Makhatadze stepped up and sent Mondli Mpoto the wrong way, slotting into the bottom left-hand corner.
There was little other action of note in the opening period, but the second half saw the match burst into life. Makhatadze backheeled into the path of the onrushing Boris Tsygankov, who opened his body and tried to sidefoot past Mpoto, but the Amajimbo got down smartly to stop.
Molefi Ntseki's side then began to assert themselves and gain a foothold in the game. Sibongakonke Mbatha picked the ball up in midfield and hit a venomous drive from distance. Aleksandr Maksimenko tipped the ball over with ease. A long South African free kick from just inside the Russian half was headed down by Riyaaz Ismail, Luvuyo Mkatshana could not find the finish and the ball deflected just wide of Maksimeneko’s left-hand post.
From the resulting corner, the African side went even closer – Mbatha hit a deflected effort from the edge of the box and it bounced away off Maksimenko’s right-hand post. The Russian stopper was called upon several times in the closing stages, most notably tipping a curling Nelson Maluleke free kick over the bar.
Makhatadaze then conjured a moment of magic to seal the three points. He displayed remarkable quick thinking with a minute left on the clock, thumping a quick free kick from just inside the South Africa half over the backpedalling Mpoto. A goal worthy of capping any victory.
Russia's victory means they top Group E and remain in Concepcion for a Round of 16 clash against Ecuador, while the Amajimbos head home with their point against Korea DPR their only crumb of comfort for the journey home.