sports blog by andy shenk

Traore Slams Door on Hannover

In Anzhi, Russian Football on February 22, 2013 at 10:05 AM

With flakes of snow dusting his mohawk, Anzhi’s Ivorian forward Lacina Traore broke for the goal at just the right moment last night in Hannover, timing Jucilei’s clever onside ball perfectly to go one-on-one with Ron-Robert Zieler. The young African international kept steady on the wintry pitch, slithering his shot past the Hannover keeper and just inside the post.

The goal, struck in the 8th minute of added time, saw Anzhi through to the Europa League round 0f 16, 4-2 on aggregrate, after a nervy half hour of play in AWD Arena. Sergio da Silva Pinto gave the Germans a 1-0 lead 20 minutes from full-time, and Hannover had numerous chances to grab the crucial second goal in sloppy conditions, but couldn’t break through.

The Russians entered the second leg in firm control after a 3-1 victory in Moscow last week, and Hannover coach Mirko Slomka admitted in the build-up that his team would be hard-pressed to advance. Anzhi, for their part, spent the week in between matches in Spain. With the start to the Russian league still weeks away and Moscow blanketed in snow, Guus Hiddink felt balmy Marbella would give his side the best chance to prepare.

Yuri Zhirkov missed the match after receiving his third yellow card of the tournament on the 14th, while Traore made a return to the roster. On the German side, defender Konstantin Rausch’s availability was the only major change.

AWD Arena filled to perhaps two-third capacity by kick-off, bolstered by almost a thousand Dagestani fans. With light snow falling at kick-off, the game began briskly. Both sides threatened, with Anzhi captain Samuel Eto’o enjoying the first real chance in the 19th minute. Hannover defender Sakai mistimed a ball in the air, allowing the Cameroonian to break into the penalty area, but his shot went wide at close range, closed down well on the angle by Zieler.

A minute later, Mohammed Abdellaoue, left alone in the center of the field, tested Anzhi keeper Vladimir Gabulov from about 20 yards, but his curling effort missed by a few feet.

Zhirkov’s absence on the wing could be felt. Russian defender Arseniy Logashov, entrusted with replacing the former Chelsea man,  was overmatched by more physical Hannover opponents. He saw yellow at the half-hour mark. His counterpart, left back Andrey Eschenko, made a much better impression. The Anzhi newcomer fought tirelessly for the ball, using his strength to keep possession and move the ball downfield. Most of Anzhi’s dangerous moments in the half came from his side of the pitch.

Early in the second, little suggested the Germans would find a way back into the match to keep their Europa League hopes alive. Eto’o nearly buried them in the 61st minute after a neat cross from Boussoufa into the box, but Zieler thwarted him again and Willian missed the rebound. Three minutes later, the captain broke into the box again, this time looking to set up a teammate, but the Hannover defenders closed him down and the attack fizzled out.

The snow, steady throughout, began to swirl more and more, as Traore replaced Anzhi starlet Willian at the midway point of the half. Three minutes later, the field now quickly retreating beneath its frosty blanket, Hannover struck. In remarkably similar fashion to Odil Akhmedov’s winner in Moscow, midfielder Sergio da Silva Pinto smacked Szabolcs Huszti’s cross just past a surprised Gabulov into the low corner.

The crowd, solid in support for 70 minutes, now roared its encouragement through the blowing storm. Eto’o picked up Anzhi’s fifth yellow of the night a few moments later and Hannover set out to break down a suddenly scrambling Anzhi side.

Huszti sent a powerful header on target in the 73rd, but Gabulov picked it out. With eight minutes to go, the officials ordered groundskeepers onto the pitch to clean off the lines obscured by snow.

Soon after resuming play Mame Diouf went down in the box after contact with Anzhi midfielder Lassana Diarra. Rather than point to the spot, Jonas Eriksson booked the Senegalese forward for simulation. The fans let the Swedish official hear their displeasure, but they had some comfort at the 90-minute mark when eight minutes of added time were tacked on.

Hannover pushed and probed, the ball crashing through Gabulov’s box several times, but each time it trickled out the other end. After one more stop early in the eighth minute, Jucilei took off on the left flank. Cutting back to midfield he spotted the Ivorian in line with the retreating Hannoverians and sent Traore down for the killing blow.

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