CSKA Moscow came from behind to draw 1-1 with Spanish side Sevilla in their UEFA Champions League last-16 clash on Wednesday, leaving the return leg in two weeks time delicately poised.
The Russian side bore little resemblance to a team that had not played a competitive match since December, producing some electric counter-attacking play down the flanks. Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez produced a spectacular equaliser on 65 minutes with a 35-yard strike that is likely to be a contender for goal of the season, swerving past a helpless Andres Palop.
The home side could have added a second on 84 minutes when Czech striker Tomas Necid picked up the ball inside the Sevilla penalty area, only for his shot to be saved by the 36-year-old custodian.
Deprived of top scorer Luis Fabiano and a recovering Frederic Kanoute, the Spanish side lacked composure in front of goal and only took the lead, with their first clear-cut chance of the game, thanks to a defensive blunder. A Jesus Navas cross evaded the entire CSKA defence, leaving Alvaro Negredo, who came into the match on the back of two successive red cards in the Spanish league, to creep in behind for a simple tap-in on 24 minutes for his first Champions League goal of the season.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky admitted the Spaniards had the advantage but vowed they would be no push over in the second leg. "We wanted to win very much but failed to keep a clean sheet," he said. "After that Sevilla played very good defensively but we managed to level and had chances to score the winner. Now the Spanish side have more chance to go through but we are going to fight up to the very end. Everything will be decided in the return match."
Krasic crowded out
Much of the pre-match hype had centred on CSKA's Serbian midfielder and reported Bayern Munich target Milos Krasic, but tight marking by Sevilla's midfield enforcer Didier Zokora limited the 25-year-old's influence on the game. That left Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda to provide the driving force for the Russian team's attacking play and he came close to adding his own name to the scoresheet on 31 minutes, firing just wide from 18 yards.
The €9million signing from Dutch side VVV-Venlo, making his first appearance for Leonid Slutsky's men, narrowly missed the target again minutes later when he picked up a rebound from an Evengi Aldonin effort.
The Russian Cup holders could have opened the scoring after only four minutes when Sevilla's French centre-back Julien Escude carelessly gave away possession to CSKA's Czech striker Tomas Necid. The 19-year-old centred to former Liverpool man Gonzalez, who volleyed high and wide over Sevilla's crossbar.
Necid had his own chance three minutes later when he ran onto a Keisuke Honda pass, only for Sevilla keeper Palop to comfortably palm his shot wide. The return leg takes place on 16 March in Seville.