Griffiths had put us ahead shortly before half-time in the UEFA Youth League contest but the home team came back into it after the restart and took the lead through Timur Zhamaletdinov and Ivan Oleynikov.
Striker Griffiths capitalised on a late spell of pressure to equalise right on the 90-minute mark but there was to be late, late drama as Konstantin Kuchaev slid the ball home three minutes into added time with our players looking in vain to the match officials for play to be pulled back over what they deemed to be an off-side situation.
The result at Stadium Oktyabr leaves our youngsters winless after the first two matches in the group stage.
With the game taking place on an artificial surface on a chilly Moscow afternoon, neither side really established themselves in the opening exchanges. Griffiths was on the receiving end of a series of late challenges as the CSKA defenders struggled to cope with him dropping his shoulder and trying to turn into dangerous areas.
Jack Roles went close to a 24th-minute opener but saw his low shot pushed beyond the far post by goalkeeper Pavel Ovchinnikov while CSKA signalled their intent with a dangerous searching cross from Timur Pukhov which Kyle Walker-Peters was forced to put behind at the expense of a corner.
The lively Zhamaletdinov sent a header over the top for the hosts and then struck the top of the crossbar with an audacious long-range effort on 37 minutes while, in between those chances, Griffiths made a purposeful run towards goal but fired wide.
The 16-year-old striker made no mistake seven minutes before the interval, though, as the ball broke to him following a good run by Marcus Edwards and he smashed confidently beyond the keeper to put us in front.
Above: Reo Griffiths celebrates with Marcus Edwards after scoring our opener.
Our good work in attack was mirrored at the back as Anton Walkes intervened with a vital block to deny Zhamaletdinov an immediate equaliser but we couldn’t maintain our rhythm after the break and the home side drew level just before the hour mark when Zhamaletdinov met Pukhov’s left-sided cross with a powerful downward header that flew past Alfie Whiiteman. Six minutes later it was 2-1 to CSKA as Oleynikov latched onto a long ball forward, rounded the advancing Whiteman at the edge of his area and stroked it home.
Oleynikov dragged wastefully wide shortly afterwards while, with 16 minutes left, Whiteman made a fantastic fingertip save to thwart Fedor Chalov after the striker’s turn and shot in the box. Four minutes later it was the turn of Whiteman’s opposite number, Ovchinnikov, to produce the spectacular as he flung himself to his right to keep out Edwards’ goalbound free-kick.
We were applying plenty of pressure as the seconds ticked down towards the end of the game and that finally told in the 90th minute as Edwards played the ball down the right side for substitute Shilow Tracey, whose cross found Griffiths in the box. He turned and fired in to equalise – but there was to be no happy ending for us. Despite our efforts to grab a winner, Chalov saw a shot well blocked in stoppage time before skipper Kuchaev stole in to restore CSKA’s lead from the left side of the area in dramatic fashion with 93 minutes on the watch.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“We knew it was going to be difficult playing on artificial turf, with the travelling and playing against such good quality opponents but that’s what you want to try to test the young players against. I guess the toughest pill to swallow had a real lesson in there in terms of playing to the whistle and not playing to the flag. It was a bitter blow to take at the end.
“I thought we started quite well, it was difficult and then we showed real spirit to come back, which was good. We were a little bit naïve at times but the players will learn from this experience.”
CSKA Moscow: Ovchinnikov, Khosonov, Stanisavlevich, Alibekov, Tiknizyan (Neplyuev 85), Oleynikov (Anisimov 78), Kuchaev (c), Leonov, Pukhov (Volkov 87), Zhamaletdinov. Substitute (not used): Kyrnats (GK).
Spurs: Whiteman, Eyoma, Walker-Peters, Marsh (c, Stylianides 83), Dinzeyi, Walkes, Edwards, Oakley-Boothe, Griffiths, Roles (Tracey 75), Bennetts (Shashoua 62). Substitutes (not used): Brown, Tanganga, Oteh, McDermott (GK).
Goals: CSKA Moscow - Zhamaletdinov 59, Oleynikov 65, Kuchaev 90+3; Spurs - Griffiths 38, 90.
Yellow cards: CSKA Moscow – Stanisavlevich 20, Leonov 23, Chalov 67, Khosonov 70, Neplyuev 88; Spurs - Marsh 46.
Referee: Juri Frischer.
Saturday sees our first North London derby of the season as Arsenal come to the Training Centre in the Under-18 Premier League. The lads are unbeaten at home in the league so far this season and will be eyeing another good performance against the Gunners.