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Kumasi Asante Kotoko Loanee Features As Sheriff Tiraspol Ends Their Europa League Campaign With A Victory

Sheriff Tiraspol confirmed their place in European knockout football in the new year, holding off Omonia Nicosia before Rasheed Ibrahim Akanbi’s last-gasp 88th-minute winner earnt a 1-0 victory to finish third in Group E. The victory also maintains Victor Mihailov’s unbeaten start as caretaker manager with three wins in three.

Whilst perhaps not possessing the same grandeur as the group’s other fixture taking place over 1500 miles away in San Sebastián, this showdown at the Stadionul Zimbru would at least determine who would take third place and thus drop into the UEFA’s third-tier competition at the knockout stages. The visitors’ job was far from simple – win by three or more goals and they would overtake Sheriff – though two wasted chances in the opening 12 minutes showed they were up for the fight. Loizos Loizou was denied a back post tap-in as Maksym Koval crucially pounced on Andronikos Kakoullis’ low dross, before the ball broke kindly to Bruno in the box, only for him to pass to Kakoullis to be blocked by Armel Zohouri.

This would be the story of the first half, as chance after chance was squandered. Fitios Kitsos was slipped in behind by Bruno for Omonia’s best opportunity before HT, but could only slash wide under pressure from Koval, whilst at the other end the hosts could have all but sealed third place with an opening goal, but when the ball dropped to Mouhamed Diop in space on the counter the Senegalese could only poke over the bar. Whilst this was technically of no loss to the Moldovans, it was for the Cypriots, who began to wonder if they would ever lift their curse to win away in European group stage football for the first time.

The away side continued to push deep into the second half, though as time slipped away, so too did the probability of them achieving the required number of goals to remain in continental football. Roman Bezus should have been on the scoresheet twice, but he too was infected by the same lack of ruthlessness shown by his teammates earlier. His first attempt was blocked from a tight angle inside the box by Gaby Kiki, and his second was a committed diving header that cannoned back off the crossbar.

With 14 attempts on goal with four on target it simply wasn’t good enough, and Yannick Ferrera’s side were ultimately punished in the closing stages by Akanbi. The striker showed great composure to fire into the top left corner inside the box after the visitors gave the ball away in their own half, ensuring UEFA Europa Conference League knockout football. The only headache for Mihailov is that he will be without his match winner in the next round, as he picked up a booking in the second half.

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