Bukharov saves Russia in first Sochi match

Moscow (AFP) – Alexander Bukharov netted an injury-time equaliser as Russia battled back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Belgium in the first ever match at Sochi’s Fisht Arena on Tuesday.

Bukharov and Alexei Miranchuk came off the bench to cancel out the visitors’ two-goal lead after Everton forward Kevin Mirallas scored from the spot and Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke added a first half brace.

CSKA Moscow fullback Viktor Vasin had given Russia an early lead. 

The result sweetened a bitter pill for the Russian fans after the country’s team hit a new low on Friday with a first ever defeat to an African team — a 2-0 loss to Ivory Coast.

That was coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s third defeat in six matches since taking over in August — the other two coming against Costa Rica and Qatar last year.

And it had raised questions about the ability of Russia, ranked 60th by FIFA, to compete among the elite with the Confederations Cup just three months away and the World Cup — for which they qualify automatically as hosts — next year.

Russia, spurred on by a capacity 43,700 crowd, got off to a flying start after just three minutes as Dmitry Kombarov redirected a left wing freekick by Alexander Samedov to Vasin, who sent the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box.

The visitors pinned the home team back and Mirallas equalised with a 17th minute spotkick after Roman Neustadter fouled Benteke in the area.

Benteke then scored twice within the space of three minutes following defensive slip-ups to give Belgium a commanding 3-1 lead at halftime.

After the interval the visitors, fifth in the FIFA rankings, took their foot off the gas, allowing Lokomotiv Moscow’s Miranchuk to reduce the arrears after a one-two with Bukharov 16 minutes from time.

Rostov forward Bukharov then beat Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from eight yards out in the second minute of stoppage time to save the day for the hosts.

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