Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Georgia get first point


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Hamburg, June 22: Substitute Saba Lobjanidze wasted a golden chance for Georgia with the final kick of the game as the debutants claimed a first ever point in a major tournament with a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic.
Georgia, the lowest-ranked side in the tournament, took the lead in first-half stoppage time when striker Georges Mikautadze slotted in from the penalty spot.But the Czech Republic – quarter-finalists three years ago – were by far the more dangerous side throughout and finally replied when Patrik Schick turned in after substitute Ondrej Lingr hit the post.
Schick then limped off with an injury as Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili produced save after save to ensure a share of the spoils.
And there was still time for Lobjanidze to fire over after a three-on-one encounter in the final seconds of the match.
The result means both sides head into their final games in Group F on Wednesday with a chance to progress to the last 16.
Georgia won plenty of new fans – if no points – with their free-flowing and fearless performance in defeat to Turkey on their tournament debut and they so nearly snatched a famous first win in front of more feverish support.Second-best throughout to a Czech side dominant on set-pieces, they countered from a last-minute Czech corner and found Lobjanidze free 12 yards from goal – but he could only fire over the top.In truth a defeat would have been harsh on the Czechs who had 27 efforts on goal, forcing Mamardasvili into a fine double save as early as the third minute.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Schick may have done better with that early strike but another long throw from West Ham defender Vladimir Coufal soon brought about a chance, which Adam Hlozek bundled in at the second attempt.However, referee Daniel Siebert was sent to his pitchside monitor and ruled the goal out for handball.Another pitchside review gave Georgia their penalty for handball against Robin Hranac and Metz forward Mikautadze kept his cool to convert his second goal of the tournament.
The Czech Republic kept plugging away and got their rewards when substitute Lingr finally beat Mamardasvili, who made 11 saves in the match, with a firm header and Schick was poised to chest the ball over the line.
Ladislav Krejci wasted an identical chance moments later as he headed wide and Schick then limped off with an apparent calf injury which could yet prove decisive in the group’s conclusion next week.The Czechs face Turkey while Georgia – placed 74th in the Fifa rankings – take on Portugal knowing a win could see them through.In the end, Georgia’s historic first point in a major tournament came with a mix of relief and missed opportunity.
Their tenacious display, capped by Mamardashvili’s heroics, earned them a hard-fought draw against the Czech Republic, despite being the underdogs. As both teams head into their final Group F matches with everything to play for, Georgia’s debut performance has undoubtedly won hearts and set the stage for a thrilling conclusion to their Euro 2024 journey. (Agencies)


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