Nikola Vlasic scored a 95th-minute penalty to earn CSKA Moscow a dramatic 2-2 comeback draw with Viktoria Plzen, denying the Czech champions their first Champions League group stage victory in five years.
Michal Krmencik scored two first-half goals to put Viktoria Plzen on course for a famous night, but a late onslaught from Viktor Goncharenko’s side – who had two late goals disallowed – eventually paid dividends.
Fedor Chalov pulled one back for the visitors three minutes into the second half and deep into stoppage-time the referee awarded a spot-kick that Vlasic gratefully buried.
While Plzen were left bitterly disappointed to see their lead vanish, Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Roma in Group G’s other match will give them hope of picking up points when they travel to Stadio Olimpico on October 2.
— FC Viktoria Plzeň EN (@fcviktoria_en) September 19, 2018
CSKA came out all guns blazing, leaving themselves open to counter-attacks early on and Krmencik chipped the ball narrowly wide as Plzen began to find space.
Krmencik went one better just before the half-hour mark, arriving in the box to meet Roman Hubnik’s knockdown and guide the ball into the bottom corner of the net, beyond Igor Akinfeev.
Plzen’s talismanic 25-year-old scored the goal of the game four minutes before half-time when David Limbersky picked him out and he applied a sweet left-footed volley into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Chalov halved the deficit with an outstretched toe, poking Vlasic’s cross into the far corner of the net, but Plzen slowed the game down thereafter.
CSKA had the ball in the net five minutes from time and again six minutes later, only for the referee to rule both strikes out, but he awarded a penalty after spotting an infringement at a cross and Vlasic rifled the kick high into the net to earn his side a share of the points.
What does It mean: Plzen deflated after history almost repeats itself
Viktoria Plzen’s last win in the Champions League group stage came in December 2013 with a 2-1 victory over none other than CSKA Moscow. That night, the result was little more than a consolation as they were already heading out of the competition, but victory this year would have given them hope of progression. A 2-2 draw will feel like a defeat to Pavel Vrba and his players, but they can be proud of their efforts as they prepare to face Roma in October.
Pat on the back: CSKA could not contain Krmencik
CSKA must have known of the threat posed by Krmencik given his recent domestic exploits, but he tormented the visitors from start to finish, showed his striker’s instincts when he scored from inside the six-yard box, and showed real class with his second.
Boot up the backside: Goncharenko got it wrong
By sending his side flying into the game all guns blazing, Goncharenko underestimated Plzen and paid the price early on. CSKA left gaping holes at the back in the first half and Limbersky combined brilliantly with Krmencik to exploit them, and had the stoppage-time comeback not materialised the Russian coach would have been culpable.
The small matter of the Moscow derby awaits CSKA on Sunday when they host city rivals Spartak, while Plzen will hope to make it back-to-back league wins when they travel to Jablonec on Monday.
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