Croatia beat Russia on penalties to reach World Cup semifinals

Croatia's defender Domagoj Vida (down, 2ndL) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Russia and Croatia at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on July 7, 2018. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS
Updated 09 July 2018
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Croatia beat Russia on penalties to reach World Cup semifinals

SOCHI: Ivan Rakitic scored the winning penalty as Croatia beat Russia 4-3 in a shoot-out after a dramatic 2-2 draw on Saturday to end the World Cup hopes of the host nation and advance to a semifinal against England.
Brazilian-born Mario Fernandes had kept Russia’s dream alive when he headed home in the 115th minute to level the scores and force penalties, but he and Fedor Smolov both failed to convert their spot-kicks in Sochi.
Croatia, for whom Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida had earlier found the net, advance to their first World Cup semifinal since 1998. They will face England, who beat Sweden 2-0 earlier, at the Luzhniki Stadium Moscow on Wednesday.
In contrast for Russia, who had taken the lead through another Denis Cheryshev wonder goal in the first half, there is only heartbreak as they finally go out.
They can however be proud of their efforts, with a run to the last eight exceeding expectations for a side written off as no-hopers before the tournament.
And it remains to be seen how quickly Croatia — whose President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was watching from the stands in her country’s colors — can recover from this draining night, having also been taken to extra time and penalties by Denmark in the last round.
The arrival of the host nation for the final World Cup match at the Fisht Stadium meant by far the most vibrant atmosphere yet at this Black Sea beach resort.
The Russians, riding a wave of euphoria after unexpectedly knocking out Spain in the previous round, were determined to carry on to a first World Cup semifinal since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
But Croatia came into this game as the favorites. They may have a population of little over four million, but among that number are two of the finest midfielders in the world in Rakitic and Luka Modric.
They dominated the match, but Russia contributed to another fantastic occasion in what has been an outstanding World Cup.
The hosts went ahead thanks to a bolt from the blue just after the half-hour mark.
Cheryshev, who scored three times in the group-stage wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, was back in the line-up here after beginning on the bench against Spain last weekend.
He cut in from the left, exchanged passes with Artem Dzyuba and skipped away from a Modric challenge before firing home a superb shot from 25 yards on his left foot.
Croatia were stunned. But the Russian lead had lasted only eight minutes before they drew level, Mario Mandzukic cutting the ball back for Kramaric to head home.
Ivan Perisic hit the post for Croatia in a second half they controlled, yet they had to limp on into extra-time, with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic providing a scare as he hurt a hamstring late on.
However, Croatia took the lead for the first time in the 101st minute, defender Vida getting his head to a corner to send the ball low into the net, helped by substitute Vedran Corluka getting out of the way.
Vida removed his shirt as he ran away in celebration, possibly thinking Croatia were heading through.
However, Russia found the resources to draw level again, substitute Alan Dzagoev holding up a free-kick for Fernandes to head home in the 115th minute.
His shoot-out miss proved pivotal, however, especially after Smolov’s weak attempt at a chipped penalty was saved by Subasic.
For Croatia, Mateo Kovacic had his penalty saved, but Marcelo Brozovic, Modric and Vida all netted theirs before Rakitic stroked in the winner.


Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

Updated 21 May 2019
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Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

  • Saudi sides Ahli and Hilal advance
  • Urawa qualify for knockout phase

SHANGHAI: Former Chelsea star Oscar hit a hat trick, including a wonderful curling effort from outside the box, to fire Shanghai SIPG into the AFC Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

The Chinese champions’ 5-0 home demolition of a depleted, but already qualified, Ulsan Hyundai dumped Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale out of Asia’s premier club competition.

Shanghai SIPG’s Oscar  scores a goal against Ulsan Hyundai. (AFP)

On Monday night, goals from Omar Al-Somah and Abdulrahman Ghareeb helped Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli beat Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 2-1 to finish second behind Al-Sadd in Group D. 

Ahli needed to beat Pakhtakor to finish second behind Al Sadd and they did exactly that to make the next phase with nine points, one behind the Qataris. In Group C, Al-Hilal and Qatar’s Al Duhail played out a 2-2 draw. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16, with the Saudis assured of the top spot even before kick-off.

Kawasaki thrashed a weakened Sydney FC 4-0 away but SIPG squeezed through by a point in Group H over last year’s J-League winners. Ulsan still finished top of the group despite the thrashing and will meet Urawa Red Diamonds in the last 16 after their supersub Kazuki Nagasawa scored the opening goal and created another in a 3-0 win over Chinese Super League leaders Beijing Guoan in Saitama.

Vitor Pereira’s SIPG finished runners-up and will play Group G winners Jeonbuk, another Korean side, next month in the knockout rounds while high-flying Beijing failed to get past the group stage.

Oscar, who joined SIPG for an Asian-record €60 million from Chelsea in January 2017, said: “The (second) goal I scored was very beautiful and my favorite.”

Asked by AFP if the exquisite strike was a reminder to European football of his enduring qualities, the 27-year-old Brazilian said: “For players who come to Asia and China, their level is not going down. We keep working hard to improve our level step by step.”

SIPG made light of the absence of injured captain Hulk and were ahead after just seven minutes when Oscar played a clever one-two with fellow Brazilian Elkeson before firing first time past stand-in goalkeeper Moon Jung-in.

K-League leaders Ulsan made wholesale changes from the team that won 3-1 at Suwon Bluewings on Saturday allowing Pereira’s side to dominate at a half-empty Shanghai Stadium. Oscar’s neat first settled any nerves in the must-win game and the former international made it 2-0 on 42 minutes with his world-class strike into the top-left corner from the edge of the penalty area. Man of the match Oscar completed his hat trick on 76 minutes after striker Li Shenglong had made it 3-0 and substitute Hu Jinghang made it a five-star night. Over in Japan, Urawa had an early scare when captain Yosuke Kashiwagi was stretchered off in the 11th minute to be replaced by Nagasawa.

But they need not have worried as it was the substitute who broke the deadlock in the 34th minute as he shrugged off weak Beijing challenges at the edge of the box to fire past goalkeeper Zou Dehai.

Beijing needed at least a score draw to go through to the last 16 but their task became harder when Nagasawa turned provider seven minutes later, sliding in Yuki Muto to score. Urawa remained in control and in the 81st minute sealed their place in the knockout phase when Muto played in Shinzo Koroki to ram home.

Group winners Jeonbuk drew 0-0 with Thailand’s Buriram United in the other Group G match.