Anguished Tikhonov in fitness fight
INFLUENTIAL Russian skipper Andrei Tikhonov faces a battle to be fit in time for tomorrow's Carlsberg Cup Lunar New Year tournament final after injuring himself during Friday's win over Yugoslavia.
The young Russians shot down the 1995 Carlsberg Cup champions, winning the penalty shootout 6-5 after the teams were level 1-1 at the end of normal time.
Tikhonov, last year's Russian Footballer of the Year and one of the stars of the event, said he needed several days rest if he is to play in the final against Switzerland - although he admitted that may not be long enough.
The Swiss easily booked their place in the final at the Hong Kong Stadium after out-playing the Hong Kong League XI 4-1 in the other match.
There was drama in the earlier game between the Russians and Yugoslavs when midfielder Tikhonov limped off the pitch after straining his groin while scoring his team's second penalty in the shootout.
The shootout went to sudden death after both teams successfully converted their first five spot kicks.
Russia snatched the advantage when Yugoslav midfielder Dejan Govedarica saw his spot-kick come off the cross-bar.
Russian forward Evgueni Kharlatchev then made no mistake by firing home to give his side victory.
Russia's joy soon led to despair as Tikhonov's teammates realised the extent of their captain's injury.
Tikhonov, who plays for Spartak Moscow, said: 'It's an old [groin] injury and I stretched it a bit too much while taking the shot. It's a blow for me because I want to play in the final.
'There's a chance I will play, though. I hope my doctors can fix up my problem in time because I really intend to help my team in the final.' Yugoslav forward Anto Drobnjak put his team ahead in the 39th minute when he slipped into the goalmouth area to latch on to the end of a cross delivered from the left by midfielder Sinisa Mihajlovic.
After dominating much of the first half, the Yugoslavs had to soak up pressure from the Russians in the second period. Russian midfielder Dmitri Popov equalised with a 30-yard drive which flew into the top right hand corner of the net in the 70th minute.
The Yugoslavs, who were without midfield general and skipper Dragan Stojkovic, were reduced to 10 men in the final minute when goalkeeper Aleksandar Kocic was sent off. Stojkovic was in Australia training with his team, Grampus Nagoya Eight.
Kocic, who plays for AC Perugia in the Italian Serie A, upended Russian forward Igor Simoutenkov, who was bearing down on goal.
Scottish referee Hugh Dallas did not hesitate to give the Yugoslav his marching orders.
Yugoslavia had to make emergency contingency plans. They took off defender Zeljko Petrovic in order to field number two goalkeeper Zvonko Milojevic.
Russian coach Boris Ignatiev said: 'It's a pity it wasn't the final because it was a good game.
'Somebody has to win and lose. Our players have not achieved their ideal level because they haven't been together for long. This is why we made a few technical and tactical mistakes during the game.
'We showed that we wanted to win in the second half and we created a few chances.' Asked what he thought of Popov's eye-popping 30-yard equaliser, the wiry coach said: 'All our goals are good, especially if they are scored by my players.'