Russia staged a courageous comeback from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw with Switzerland in their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier in Basel.
Group wide open
Alexander Frei had struck twice for the hosts early in the first half, only for Sergei Ignashevitch to score with a header and penalty to save a point. The draw leaves Group 10 wide open, with the Swiss still top with nine points but the Republic of Ireland and Russia trailing them by two.
'All not lost'
Frei was disappointed that victory had slipped away from the Swiss. "From 2-0 up, we should not have lost it," he said. "We played well at the start and managed to do what we planned, which was to score early. All is not lost, though, and now we must concentrate on our game against Albania on Wednesday."
'Our own fault'
Coach Jakob Kuhn also believed Switzerland should have won. "I am satisfied with the performance and the result but we wasted two good chances to take all three points. Still, it is our own fault and we must now calm down ahead of the next match."
Russia coach Valery Gazzaev, meanwhile, said: "We were shocked in the first 15 minutes of the game, but thankfully we managed to draw level quickly." Switzerland certainly began the game with a real swagger. Playing an aggressive formation, Stéphane Chapuisat and Ricardo Cabanas repeatedly found themselves unmarked as the Russians struggled to cope with the hosts' pace and flexibility.
It was little surprise when the Swiss took the lead on 14 minutes. A long throw from right-back Bernt Haas was cleared only as far as Hakan Yakin on the edge of the box. The Swiss playmaker showed exemplary technique to strike the volley on the full and when Russian goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov failed to hold it, Frei reacted quickest to sweep the ball into the net.
The second goal came just two minutes later. Chapuisat broke down the left and slid the ball inside to the unmarked Hakan Yakin, who in turn drew his man before offloading to Frei. The young striker gleefully stroked home his second goal.
Russia seemed stunned and tried to slow the tempo of the game. They found a foothold, however, and could have pulled a goal back as early as the 20th minute, but Denis Popov stood on the ball with the goal at his mercy. Four minutes later, they did score. Rolan Gusev, the visitors' most threatening outlet, was fouled on the right. He stepped up and delivered a teasing cross, which Ignashevitch met with a powerful header.
Gusev continued to threaten with his expert crossing, but Switzerland went into the break with the lead. Russia coach Valery Gazzaev brought off the ineffective Popov, throwing on young livewire Dmitri Sytchev. He was to prove a constant threat in an open second half.
The game seemed to be going the way of the Swiss, but on 68 minutes they conceded an unexpected equaliser. Another Gusev cross seemed to have sailed past the far post only for referee Arturto Dauden Ibañez to blow up for a penalty. He had correctly spotted Rafael Wicky manhandling Igor Yanovski. Wicky was booked for the infringement and Murat Yakin booked for his protestations. Ignashevitch stepped up to take it and blasted confidently past Jörg Stiel to equalise.