Astana creates Champions League history

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Astana created Champions League history by becoming the first team from Kazakhstan to win a point in the group stages of the competition.

Twice, Astana fell behind in a gripping contest, but the Kazakh champions produced a stirring second-half performance to draw 2-2 at home to Galatasaray.

Colombian midfielder Roger Canas produced an 89th-minute equaliser just moments after the Turkish visitors appeared to sew up three precious points in Group C, much needed after they had lost their opening match in the competition to Atletico Madrid.

Galatasaray deserved their half-time lead at the Astana Arena, even though it came from the most unlikely of sources after 31 minutes.

Bilal Kisa was making his Champions League debut at the age of 32, but the holding midfielder fired home from 30 yards low into the corner of Nenad Eric’s net.

Astana had been very much second best until that point but they were a different side after the break, and Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera made several excellent saves to keep them out.

The Uruguayan was finally beaten 12 minutes from time when Junior Kabananga took advantage of Semih Kaya’s slip and his cross went into the net off luckless defender Hakan Balta.

But Galatasaray’s hopes of claiming a first Champions League victory on the road since March 2013 were boosted when Eric made a hash of substitute Sinan Gumus’ shot four minutes from time and the ball trickled over the line.

Astana were crest-fallen but they somehow summoned the energy to fight back and Canas headed home after Muslera had punched the ball to the edge of the area.

Beaten 2-0 in their opening group game by Benfica, Astana had displayed plenty of early nerves as Wesley Sneijder dominated the midfield battle.

The Holland international came closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half-hour, forcing Eric into a fifth-minute save before firing another effort across goal when the ball fell for him in the penalty area.

Astana’s attacking forays were rare in the first half, although Georgi Zhukov did latch onto Balta’s weak header to test Muslera low down at his post, and the hosts struggled to combat Sneijder’s creativity.

But Astana raised their game at the start of the second half and the Galatasaray goal led a charmed life as Baurzhan Dzholchiyev and Kabananga both went close.

Foxi Kethevoama wasted an even better opening after 66 minjutes when he timed his run perfectly into the penalty area but volleyed wide with much of the goal to aim at.

Zhukov’s 30-yard shot brought another save from Muslera and Kabananga fired wide, but Astana refused to surrender and their two late goals sparked wild celebrations in the stadium which were set to be matched right around Kazakhstan.

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