Mark González fired a memorable equaliser to earn PFC CSKA Moskva a deserved draw against Sevilla FC in the first leg of a cagey first knockout round tie.
The game looked to be going away from Leonid Slutski's tiring men midway through the second half when the hitherto quiet González unleashed an unstoppable effort from distance. It was little more than the hosts deserved, having dominated before and after Álvaro Negredo's 25th-minute opener for Sevilla, and CSKA's night might have been better, too, had Andrés Palop not denied Tomáš Necid with full time approaching.
CSKA are newcomers to this stage but Keisuke Honda, their winter signing from VVV Venlo who was making his European debut, started the game as if he had never known anything else. Deft of touch and seemingly always in space, his direct running caused the Sevilla back line problems throughout. He gave early warning when he robbed the lax Federico Fazio, and when González and Necid failed to make the most of menacing through balls, Honda took matters into his own hands, firing into the side-netting from distance.
Miloš Krasić was also showing sparks of life after CSKA's winter hibernation and the outlook, like the clouds over Moscow, was gloomy for Sevilla. Manuel Jiménez's men have run hot and cold all season, beating FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou one week, losing at home to lowly Real Racing Club the next. It was set for another cold one, but then they scored. Jesús Navas broke down the right and drilled in a low cross that bounced over Sergei Ignashevich's outstretched leg and into the path of the grateful Negredo, who could not miss.
The Army Men were rocked, but reformed their lines and by half-time they had resumed their forward march. Evgeni Aldonin shot low past the upright and, given licence to push on, Aleksei Berezutski's teasing cross only just evaded González at the far post. It was more of the same after the restart as Krasić's cross homed in, inevitably, on Honda but Marius Stankevičius did just enough to divert his header for a corner.
It proved a false dawn, and the game was drifting when former Real Betis Balompié winger González conjured up another bolt from the blue in the 66th minute. Collecting the loose ball in midfield the winger let fly from all of 30 metres, his left-footed strike leaving Palop no chance in the Sevilla goal.
Like Negredo, it was his first goal in the UEFA Champions League proper, and after Necid had been denied the match was also destined to finish honours even. It is all to play for in the warmer climes of Andalusia on 16 March.
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