Belarus came from behind to secure three vital points with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Moldova in UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 3.
A partisan crowd inside the Dinamo stadium in Minsk saw the home side dominate proceedings in a hard-fought encounter, but Moldova took the lead against the run of play in the 14th minute. Boris Cebotari raced on to a pass from Serghei Covalciuc, before blasting a magnificent strike past goalkeeper Gennadiy Tumilovich.
The visitors then had a penalty appeal turned down after Serghey Rogaciov was challenged inside the Belarus area - an episode referred to by Moldova coach Viktor Pasulko as "key for the match". Belarus regained the initiative and took control for the remainder of the first half.
Vitali Kutuzov, Valentin Bielkevitch, Alexander Khatskevich and Sergei Gurenko all wasted good chances before the hosts drew level in the 43rd minute. Bielkevitch's corner found Andrei Ostrovski in space, and he headed the ball on to Kutuzov, who finished with aplomb.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with Belarus attacking from the outset. On 58 minutes, Andrei Lavrik unleashed an effort that caught out goalkeeper Evghenii Hmaruc and Gurenko was first to the rebound to tuck the ball into the empty net and give his side the lead.
'A nerve-wrecking game'
Ion Testimitanu was denied by Tumilovich and Serghei Clescenco missed from point-blank range as Moldova went searching for an equaliser late in the game. "
It was a nerve-wrecking game," said Belarus coach Eduard Malofee. "We needed to win, and I am grateful to my players for the three points."
Rogaciov injury crucial
Moldova coach Victor Pasulko was magnanimous in defeat, saying: "I congratulate our hosts on the victory. It was unfortunate for us that [Serghei] Rogaciov was injured so early in the game - he is our most important player in attack. However, I think we deserved a draw - Clescenco did not take his chance to equalise".
Belarus have three points from their four games, while Moldova are yet to secure a point and prop up a Group 3 that also includes Austria, the Netherlands and Czech Republic.