|I||Sparta Praha||19:00||H. Kiryat Shmona|
FC Rubin Kazan strengthened their position among the top two in Group H with a victory over Neftçi PFK that was never really in doubt from the moment Alan Kasaev broke the deadlock on 16 minutes.
The winger applied a crisp finish low inside the far post after running onto a well-weighted Gökdeniz Karadeniz through ball. With the effervescent Karadeniz pulling the strings, the hosts looked set for a big win but they were never quite able to add to their advantage. Neftçi, for their part, were much improved after the interval but have it all to do when these sides meet in Azerbaijan in a fortnight.
They will certainly need to start better than they did this evening, as a failure to retain possession saw them pegged back in their own half for much of the early stages. Their misplaced passes ultimately proved their downfall, too, as Oleg Kuzmin pounced on one too many near the touchline and Karadeniz and Kasaev did the rest. It was Rubin's first goal in 238 minutes – it did not seem they would have to wait long for another.
At times Karadeniz was unplayable, combining well with Bebras Natcho, Kasaev and Kuzmin on the right flank. Full-back Kuzmin played much of the match as an auxiliary winger, and it needed strong hands from Saša Stamenković to keep out his shot just before half-time after a nonchalant Karadeniz flick. Neftçi briefly threatened after the restart, and in brief spells in the second period, but it was largely more of the same.
Chances were at a premium until the closing stages when the visitors were pushing for an equaliser though José Rondón in particularly was unable to take them. Fortunately for him and Rubin, Kasaev had long done the damage.
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