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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Profligate Spartak Beats Belgrade 2-0




Spartak Moscow will go to Yugoslavia in two weeks with a comfortable 2-0 cushion after an often frustrating encounter Wednesday night at Luzhniki Stadium in the third qualifying round of the European Champions League against an out-of-shape Partisan Belgrade.


The overall winner of the two legs will go through to the first group stage of the Champions League, which starts in September.


On a rain-drenched night, Spartak was given the space to run the game from the first whistle. Yegor Titov and Andrei Tikhonov made the best of open play from midfield, repeatedly opening up the Partisan defense with neat short passing. But, as was the case throughout Spartak's last European campaign, chances went begging.


Tikhonov and Brazilian Robson both missed clear opportunities before they linked up to break the deadlock in the 37th minute. Robson met Tikhonov's cross and Alexander Shirko scrambled in the winner after an error by the Yugoslav goalkeeper.


Partisan's lack of serious match practice over the last six months, when Yugoslavia's domestic league was suspended, showed in its sluggish performance. Their great hope, the diminutive 20-year-old attacker, Mataeja Kezm an, was left isolated, with only rare chances to show his pedigree.


Heavy pressure in the second half finally led to Spartak's crucial second in the 73rd minute, bringing audible relief to the nervy home crowd. Titov's pass put Tikhonov through, who dribbled past one defender before coolly slotting the clinching goal into the far corner.


For all Spartak's efforts, the third would not come, with the frustration showing as Titov dived for a penalty in the 90th minute, only to be rewarded with a yellow card.


Spartak coach Oleg Romantsev had harsh words to say about the decision after the match. "Titov was booked for absolutely nothing," he said. "If it had been a player from the opposite side, the referee would have given a penalty."