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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak Shocks Ajax in UEFA Cup




AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Spartak Moscow, playing its first competitive match in almost three months, gave a superb exhibition of counterattacking to beat Ajax Amsterdam 3-1 in its UEFA Cup quarterfinal first leg.


Valery Kechinov's strike in the final minutes Tuesday added to two goals from Alexander Shirko and provided a firm platform from which to defend in Moscow on March 17.


"The result doesn't say too much about the difference between the teams. Our play really worked today. We used our chances," Spartak coach Oleg Romantsev said.


Ajax, which was initially celebrating its 200th appearance in European competition, controlled the majority of the game but paid for its unwillingness to shoot early on and its firing of blanks in the second half.


Ajax coach Morten Olsen said the evening rated as his worst in charge of the club, particularly because of his side's first half display.


But he was warm in his praise of the Russian side.


"They were as good as I expected, but we made it too easy for them," he said. "We made childish errors. But they were very good in attack."


The Russians broke the deadlock after their first meaningful attack won them a corner.


Ajax failed to clear, Kechinov cut down the right and backheeled to Maxim Bouznikin who swept the ball across the home goal mouth for Shirko to slot in. Ajax players appealed for offside but the goal was given.


Seven minutes into the second half, Spartak appeared to have wrapped up the tie when Yegor Titov crossed to Shirko, who was unmarked in the middle, for the striker's second.


For a moment, Ajax and its fans were stunned, but after 57 minutes, a dazzling dribble by Tijani Babangida let in Shota Arveladze to cut the deficit.


Minutes later, a second looked on the cards as Arveladze himself threaded through the Spartak defense. There was a brusque challenge and the Georgian went down.


The crowd screamed for a penalty, but the referee ruled Arveladze had dived and booked him.


Ajax strove hard for a second but some insipid shooting and crossing and a certain lack of luck counted against the team. Its attack was also blunted by the absence due to injury of Finnish international Jari Litmanen.


Spartak drove home the killer blow when Kechinov squeezed the ball in between goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and the post. Defender Danny Blind suggested the tie was over but Olsen insisted Ajax was still capable of reaching the semifinals.


"We're not going to Moscow as tourists," he said. "If we attack as we did in the second half, we'll do better."


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Second-half substitute Pierluigi Casiraghi scored with his first touch to give Lazio a 1-0 victory over Auxerre in a UEFA Cup quarterfinal first-leg match Tuesday.


The Italy striker came on for midfielder Giorgio Venturin after 64 minutes of an open tie played at a furious pace in Rome's Olympic Stadium.


Two minutes later, Czech Pavel Nedved swung the ball over from the Lazio right. Defenders Franck Rabarivony and Sabri Lamouchi misjudged the cross and Casiraghi stole in at the back post to fire the ball high into the roof of the net with an acrobatic volley.


Casiraghi, who won the UEFA Cup with Juventus in 1991 and 1994 before moving to Lazio, is gaining a reputation for saving his goals for big international occasions.


His strike against Russia in November's World Cup playoffs took Italy though to this year's finals.


Lazio struggled in the closing 20 minutes after Yugoslav playmaker Vladimir Jugovic was sent off for a second bookable offense -- a dismissal that will cost him his place in the return match.