Russia and South Korea have kicked off their respective 2014 FIFA World Cup Group H campaigns with a 1-1 draw.
In an otherwise largely uneventful contest in Cuiaba, late goals from substitutes Lee Keun-ho and Aleksandr Kerzhakov forced the result which could have gone either way with both sides having chances to win it late.
The opening goal came in calamitous circumstances when Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev, who had been struggling to hold onto the ball all night, made an enormous blunder with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Second-half substitute Lee tried his luck with a well-hit effort from range which was at a very catchable height for Akinfeev but the CSKA Moscow gloveman completely misread his attempted save to see the ball pop over his head and advance slowly over the goal-line.
However, less than five minutes later the Russians were level when Kerzhakov, who had replaced Yuri Zhirkov just minutes earlier, slotted home an opportunistic equaliser.
South Korean keeper Jung Sung-ryong had done well to keep out the initial attempt from Alan Dzagoev before a goalmouth scramble ended in the ball falling to Kerzhakov who used his scoring instinct to turn and fire home for his 26th international goal.
The goal from Kerzhakov made it four from five scored by substitutes in the World Cup today.
Earlier in proceedings, the Taeguk Warriors had discovered that Akinfeev was having a hard time of it and they began to pepper the goals with plenty of long range efforts which continued to cause problems.
Koo ja-cheol tested Akinfeev with a dipping effort from distance in the 50th minute, moments before the Russian used his chest to deny Ki Sung-yueng’s bouncing attempt.
Prior to the hour-mark, Kim Young-gwon sent in an uncomfortable free-kick which Akinfeev again failed to hold before Russia began to commit themselves forward.
Jung was forced to throw himself desperately at Dmitri Kombarov’s long cross from the left to keep out any threat from Russia
In the end though, the draw was probably a fair result as both sides opened their group stage endeavours with a point each as Russia now look to their June 22 meeting with Belgium in Rio de Janeiro while South Korea prepare for their meeting with Algeria in Porto Alegre on the same day.
2014 FIFA World Cup – Group H
Russia: 1 (Aleksandr Kerzhakov 74’)
South Korea: 1 (Lee Keun-ho 68’)
Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba – 37,603
Yellow cards: RUS - Oleg Shatov 49’
KOR - Son Heung-min 13’, Ki Sung-yueng 30’, Koo Ja-cheol 90+1’
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