Horror miss will haunt Georgia’s Lobjanidze

I blew it: Georgia’s Saba Lobjanidze reacts after a missed chance to score during a Group F match against the Czech Republic. — AP

HAMBURG: Saba Lobjanidze missed a chance to write his name into Georgia’s sporting folklore in Saturday’s Euro 2024 clash with the Czech Republic, blazing the final kick of the game over the crossbar with only the goalkeeper to beat as the match ended 1-1.

It will be the stuff of recurring nightmares for Lobjanidze, who should have won the contest for the tournament newcomers and put them on course for a place in the last 16 at the first time of asking.

In a breakaway move in the last seconds of stoppage time, Giorgi Chakvetadze steamed down the pitch, outstripping the chasing Czech defenders, before slipping the ball to Lobjanidze who looked certain to secure a famous victory for his country.

His shot was well struck, but the 29-year-old substitute lent back a little and sent it over the bar to the disbelief of all, especially the huge contingent of white and red clad Georgian supporters.

The final whistle sounded almost immediately, adding to the horror of the miss, for a 1-1 draw that left both teams struggling to advance from Group F.

Georgia, who lost their opening game to Turkiye and have one point from two games, need to win their last match against the Portugal on Wednesday to stand any chance of progressing.

Watching from the other end of the pitch as the breakaway unfolded was Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili, whose heroics earned him the man of the match award.

“This is our chance to get out of the group,” he said.

Expectation quickly turned to disbelief but he was one of the many players who went to console the distraught Lobjanidz.

First, though, was coach Willy Sagnol who went directly to talk to Lobjanidze after the game ended.

“What do you say to someone in that situation? I’m not sure he heard anything I said,” Sagnol said.

“But I told him ‘you’ll never know if you don’t try’,” said the former French international who won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich at the same stadium in Hamburg 23 years ago when his side scored in the final minute.

“We’ll do everything we can in the next days to try and pick him up.” — Reuters

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