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Russia pip Sweden to final in shoot-out

Russia 0-0 Sweden (Russia win 10-9 on pens)
Russia will meet Italy in Friday's final after a gripping penalty shoot-out victory against Sweden in Zilina.

Russia pip Sweden to final in shoot-out
Russia pip Sweden to final in shoot-out ©UEFA.com

Winners in 2006, Russia are back in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final after they held their nerve the longest in a remarkable penalty shoot-out with Sweden in Tuesday's second semi-final.

The best of the chances in a goalless 80 minutes in Zilina went Sweden's way, though their positive intentions were handicapped by Erdal Rakip's 48th-minute red card. Mirza Halvadzic might still have won it for Roland Larsson's side, but saw his potentially decisive spot kick stopped by Anton Mitryushkin. Instead, after all ten players, including both goalkeepers, had stepped up to the spot, Ramil Sheydaev – only called into the squad as emergency injury cover – slotted home to take Dmitri Khomukha's team through.

Sweden's high-tempo start posed Russia problems and when Halvadzic seized onto a short back pass by the rattled opposition defence, the Sweden striker could not squeeze his shot into the net after rounding Mitryushkin.

Larsson's men did not merely rely on mistakes to create openings. Crosses, in particular, frequently found a yellow and blue shirt in promising positions. Isak Ssewankambo brought down one and then stepped neatly inside a challenge only to drag his shot wide; Gustav Engvall, a welcome return from suspension, nodded another against a post while Rakip's well-directed downward header brought a smart stop from Mitryushkin just before the break.

Very rarely did Russia escape the suffocating pressure, and attempt to make use of the width available on the Štadión MŠK Žilina pitch themselves. They proved less effective than their opponents, though. When Sheydaev drifted beyond his marker and pulled the ball back, only a team-mate to apply the finishing touch was missing. An extra red jersey in the area would also have been useful when goalkeeper Sixten Mohlin initially struggled to hold Aleksandr Zuev's drive.

Sweden were the ones lacking in numbers following Rakip's dismissal, however, so it was forgivable Zuev found himself entirely unmarked at the back post. The Chertanovo EC winger's wild and wasteful finish would have been greeted with more sympathy from coach Khomukha had a reflex stop from Mohlin at close quarters not prevented him making amends shortly after. The sides could not be separated within 80 minutes, and the penalty drama ebbed and flowed before Sheydaev, eventually, made the difference.

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