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Di Natale rescues Udinese against Anji

Udinese Calcio 1-1 FC Anji Makhachkala
Guus Hiddink's side were on the brink of winning their first ever UEFA group stage game until substitute Antonio Di Natale did what he does best.

Antonio Di Natale is congratulated on his late equaliser
Antonio Di Natale is congratulated on his late equaliser ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Anji Makhachkala opened their first ever UEFA group stage campaign with a 1-1 draw at Udinese Calcio.

Anji breezed through UEFA Europa League qualifying with 11 unanswered goals in three away assignments, but found Udinese a far tougher nut to crack. They looked to have prevailed courtesy of Daniele Padelli's own goal just before the break, but Antonio Di Natale ensured the spoils were shared with a typically predatory strike in added time.

Anji's first-half display betrayed their continental inexperience; overrun in midfield, the Russian outfit were left chasing shadows. Despite Udinese's dominance of possession, though, they conjured only one opportunity of note, Mehdi Benatia heading over having been picked out by Marco Faraoni's cute free-kick.

A series of spurned half-chances by the hosts looked to have ensured a goalless first 45 minutes. On the stroke of the interval, however, Lacina Traoré surged down the left and, from an ambitiously narrow angle, forced in a fierce shot via Padelli's gloves.

Half-time did little to stunt the influence of Faraoni, who fired over with a first-time volley after Mathias Ranégie had passed up two close-range openings of his own. Unable to unpick the Anji lock, Udinese turned to their most reliable set of keys – Di Natale was summoned from the bench.

But the Anji barricade remained secure, the particularly stoic Christopher Samba threatening at the other end before Samuel Eto'o went even closer to adding a second. Evgeni Pomazan's brave save at the feet of Dušan Basta looked to have earned the visitors all three points; then popped up Di Natale.