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Maribor earn last-gasp draw at Rubin

FC Rubin Kazan 1-1 NK Maribor
Dejan Mezga struck four minutes from time to cancel out Bebras Natcho's fine effort and earn Maribor a share of the spoils at the Group D winners.

Dejan Mezga equalised for Maribor in Kazan
Dejan Mezga equalised for Maribor in Kazan ©Getty Images

Dejan Mezga struck late to earn NK Maribor a point that keeps them in contention for a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.

Bebras Natcho's fine goal at the end of the first half looked like being enough for an FC Rubin Kazan side already through to the last 32. Yet with four minutes remaining a corner was half-cleared to Mezga, who sent a bobbling shot just beyond the reach of the wrong-footed Sergei Ryzhikov. Rubin can take some consolation from the fact that a draw at least sealed top spot in Group D and if they and Maribor both win next time out, the Slovenian side will advance too.

Coach Kurban Berdyev kept his promise by naming a strong Rubin team, resisting the temptation to rest players with progress already assured. However, for much of the first half quality in the final third was conspicuous by its absence. The Russian hosts enjoyed a lot of possession, leaving Maribor chasing shadows – on a freezing night in Kazan they were at least keeping warm.

Dmitri Torbinski certainly kept them running, a box of tricks on the left. He conjured an early chance for Roman Eremenko and it was his vanishing act later in the half that led to the opening goal, bamboozling Martin Milec with a clever drag-back. His cross was cleared only as far as Natcho, 30 metres from goal, who controlled before curling a wonderful effort inside the post.

Maribor had posed little attacking threat, but came close at the start of the second period when Nusmir Fajić rose to guide Mitja Viler's deep centre narrowly wide. Normal service was soon resumed, however, Jasmin Handanovič keeping out substitute José Rondón's header and tipping a Vladislav Kulik free-kick around the post. Those saves would prove crucial when Mezga struck late for the Slovenian club.