Alan Dzagoev came off the bench to help keep CSKA Moscow’s Champions League qualification hopes alive by inspiring the Russian side to a 2-1 comeback win at Basel on Tuesday.
The Swiss champions knew they would be guaranteed a place in the knockout stages with two games to spare if they beat CSKA at St Jakob-Park and Manchester United avoided defeat at home to Benfica.
Basel they looked on track to make it three Champions League wins in a row when Luca Zuffi opened the scoring following a tight 32 minutes by neatly lobbing a prone Igor Akinfeev, after the Russia goalkeeper had denied Mohamed Elyounoussi.
CSKA were heading out but half-time substitute Dzagoev, not deemed fit enough to start the match, equalised after 64 minutes, beating goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik with a sumptuous finish to level the scores.
And the visitors went on to complete a stunning turnaround and win the game, Pontus Wernbloom lashing in a fine drive shortly after he wasted a glorious chance by heading Dzagoev’s cross wide.
CSKA and Basel are now level on six points with two games to play in Group A, but the Swiss side remain in second spot on ahead of their home game against United on matchday five – a 2-0 win in Russia giving them a superior head-to-head record.
Dimitri Oberlin went into the match with three goals in as many Champions League appearances for Basel and the 20-year-old had the first opening after nine minutes, firing off-target at the end of a powerful 40-yard run.
Basel continued to patiently probe and Renato Steffen cut inside off the right flank, only to fire straight at Akinfeev with attacking colleagues in better positions.
A clever corner routine saw Taulant Xhaka thump a volley into the chest of defender Viktor Vasin after 29 minutes but CSKA conceded from the hosts’ next attack.
The best move of the game at that stage saw Oberlin tee up Elyounoussi and, when Akinfeev saved from close range, the ball looped up kindly for Zuffi to lift a 20-yard finish into the empty net.
Basel’s goal woke up CSKA and Vitinho immediately rifled wide, but the striker then should have done better when he shot straight at Vaclik from Georgy Schennikov’s left-wing cross.
HT | FCB 1-0 @PFCCSKA_en
— FC Basel 1893 EN (@FC_Basel_en) October 31, 2017
Viktor Goncharenko sent on Dzagoev for Vitinho at the interval and he was instrumental in a move that led to Konstantin Kuchaev slamming over from 10 yards two minutes after the restart.
Akinfeev plunged to his right to push away Zuffi’s low free-kick and the goalkeeper had to parry away a firm Elyounoussi drive as Basel tried to wrap the match up.
Those saves proved key as the impressive Dzagoev then made a decisive impact.
When the ball broke to Dzagoev in the area via a kind deflection he sold Vaclik a superb dummy and cutely chipped the helpless Vaclik to equalise with 65 minutes played.
Dzagoev was now running the game and Wernbloom headed his terrific cross just wide but the Sweden international made amends with 12 minutes to go by netting the winner.
A deflection was again crucial as Wernbloom’s pass rebounded straight back to him, the midfielder thumping a superb first-time finish into the bottom corner.
— ПФК ЦСКА Москва (@pfc_cska) October 31, 2017
Basel felt they should have had a penalty when Schennikov appeared to drag Steffen down in the box, but referee Milorad Mazic was unmoved and the hosts could not force an equaliser, leaving Group A finely poised with two games left.
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