Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s goal rescues Russia and salvages a tie against the Korean Republic.
Byline: Kevin Buckles, Editor
CUIABA–Russia substitute striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s goal nullifies his own goalkeeper’s gaffe late in their match against the South Korea Tuesday evening at Arena Pantanal, earning a 1-1 draw.
In the 68 minute of a scoreless match, a routine play for Russia goalie Igor Akinfeev turned into a disaster. South Korea had just sparked a counterattack led by forward Lee Keun-ho who gathered and secured the ball at midfield.
Keun-ho dribbled the ball up the middle of the field, despite being loosely caged in by Russia defenders with no teammates in his proximity, until he reached the top of the penalty box and delivered a flaming strike at goal, directly at Akinfeev.
Standing still in place, Akinfeev put his hands out to catch the ball, but perhaps just a quick lapse in concentration caused the ball to slip out his grasp and fall into the back of the net to give South Korea 1-0 lead.
Keun-ho bolted off to celebrate with a face of absolute disbelief after the ball fell into the net while Akinfeev could do nothing but hold his face in agony at what just transpired.
“It was a kid’s mistake and I bare full responsibility,” Akinfeev said after the game. “Maybe I wasn’t sure in myself, I don’t know. The guys supported me. I say thanks. The goalkeeper of the national team shouldn’t make mistakes like this one.”
Even Keun-ho himself admitted after the game how fortunate he was that the ball fell into the net to give his team the lead.
“I think I was lucky,” Keun-ho said post-game. “To be frank, I never thought it would go in because I shot it straight at the keeper. But during the warm up my efforts on goal weren’t bad so I just went for it, and I was lucky.”
Lucky would also describe how Akinfeev felt after the next series of events that helped him avoid being the scapegoat for the potential loss of this game.
In the 74 minute, just six minutes after Keun-ho’s goal, Russia found themselves frantically trying to put the ball in the back of the net to even up the score before it was too late.
Russia had successfully pushed the ball up into the penalty box, a midst a slew of defenders, where midfielder Alan Dzagoevstruck a shot from the right of the goal that was blocked by South Korea goalkeeper S R Jung.
Jung failed to collect the ball however and ironically, Aleksandr Kerzhakov attempted to clear it back out of the raucous to a teammate, to set up a better shot at goal.
Lucky for Russia though, Kerzhakov’s clearing attempt did not go as plan, as it struck his teammate, defender Andrey Eshchenko, and ricocheted back at Aleksandr’s feet.
Taking advantage of South Korea’s goalkeeper still laid out on the ground, recovering from the original shot he blocked, Kerzhakov quickly gathered the ball and sent a quick dart into the back of the net for a score.
The equalizing goal was enough to secure a draw after the remaining 20 minutes of the game, along with saving Russia from what would have been an embarrassing defeat at the hands Akinfeev.
Despite the Moscow native nearly spoiling Russia’s first World Cup match in 12 years, his head coach Fabio Capello still had high praise for him after the game.
“You can accept a mistake from a great keeper like Akinfeev,” Capello said after the match. “Goalkeepers can make mistakes like any other player, and today it happened to a great champion like Igor Akinfeev. Fortunately we were able to make up for his mistake. Kerzhakov is a fantastic footballer and he still loves scoring goals.”
Akinfeev and Russia will have an opportunity to redeem themselves Sunday against the Group H-leading Belgium, at Maracanã – Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho.South Korea will also be back in action Sunday, facing Algeria at Estádio Beira-Rio.
To see the highlights for this match can be seen on this linkhttp://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1890294, video provided by ESPN FC.