DAVID SMITH - Thursday, July 15, 2010
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek had to fight back for a draw at home against Dnepr Mogilev while Nate Weiss did not suit up for Jelgava as they gave themselves hope of advancing to the next round of the Europa League.
Stabæk 2 - 2 Dnepr Mogilev
Mikkel Diskerud played the full 90 minutes in Stabaek's midfield figuring heavily into their attack, however a pair of missed penalties will have the team ruing what could have been a decisive victory in their first-leg game against Belarusian team Dnepr Mogilev.
Stabaek entered the match confident of cruising to an easy home victory over the Belarusian minnows, however were quickly dealt a rude awakening when Dmitri Turlin managed to slip his marker and easily put away his shot for a 1-0 lead to the visitors in the 13th minute.
The goal kick-started Stabaek, who only needed nine minutes to respond with the equalizer after Espen Hoff set up Jørgen Skjelvik to power the ball past Dnepr keeper Ruslan Kopantsov.
Rather than hold onto the shift in momentum to push ahead, the Blues were caught watching barely a minute later when an unmarked Mikhail Kazlou ran past the defense and made it look easy in beating Iven Austbø for the 2-1 lead to the visitors.
Diskerud and Skjelvik both came close with good chances before the half, but the best opportunity fell to the hosts seven minutes after the restart when Maksim Karpovich took down Stabaek's Jan Tømmernes in the area, giving the referee no choice to point to the spot.
Icelandic forward Veigar Páll Gunnarsson stepped up expecting to bring his team back on even ground, however his feinted run-up to the ball failed to fool Kopantsov who parried the ball to safety.
Fortunately for Gunnarsson, he was able to atone for his poorly taken spot kick only seconds later, when he was loosely guarded on the ensuing corner and scored the equalizer with a highlight-reel bicycle kick.
The goal gave Stabaek a taste for blood, and they pushed hard in Dnepr's half of the field with hopes to take the lead. It took little time for Diskerud to put his team in the position to pull ahead when he was taken down by Andrey Gonchar in the penalty area just past the hour mark.
Perhaps too motivated erase his failure just ten miutes before, Gunnarsson once again opted to take the spot kick, and again failed to put his shot past Kopantsov, leaving all in the stadium to scratch their heads in disbelief at the wasted opportunity.
This seemed to knock the wind out of the hosts, who were unable to create any real danger for the remaining half-hour, with the referee eventually blowing his whistle to confirm the bewildering 2-2 draw.
Diskerud and his teammates will head east to Mogilev for next Thursday's return leg, effectively needing a victory or a high-scoring draw to advance to the third round of qualifying.
Nate Weiss was injured and did not dress for Jelgava as they managed to sneak away from Molde with a 1-0 loss, giving the team hope to move on should they come away victors in next Thursday's home leg.