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Late Maribor goal hits Spartak knockout hopes

Moscow (AFP) – Spartak Moscow’s hopes of earning a place in the Champions League last 16 suffered a damaging blow on Tuesday as they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Maribor.

The result kept Russian champions Spartak third in Group E ahead of their final match, one point behind second-placed Sevilla, who take on group leaders Liverpool later on Tuesday.

Hosts Spartak, spurred on by a capacity 44,000 crowd at Moscow’s Otkrytie Arena, found themselves largely frustrated in the first half by resolute defending from their Slovenian opponents.

Maribor full-back Marko Suler missed a chance to put his side into the lead just after the restart when his attempt to convert a free-kick by Dare Vrsic bounced back off the post.

Spartak, desperate for three points to improve their chances of reaching the knockout phase, continued to apply pressure on Maribor, with Ze Luis sending a header narrowly wide on 77 minutes.

But the Cape Verde striker broke the deadlock with eight minutes to play as he tapped in from six yards, beyond helpless Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.

The Moscow outfit failed to see out victory though as Maribor skipper Marcos Tavares found the unmarked Jasmin Mesanovic who snatched a dramatic equaliser two minutes into injury time.

Spartak will most likely need to beat Liverpool in their final Group E encounter at Anfield on December 6 if they are to prolong their Champions League adventure.

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