CSKA shock Sevilla to advance
A costly goalkeeping blunder from Sevilla captain Andres Palop helped CSKA Moscow qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time with a 2-1 away win on Tuesday.
The Russians march on to uncharted waters at the expense of Sevilla having secured a 3-2 aggregate victory. With the last 16 tie level at 2-2 Palop allowed Japan international midfielder Keisuke Honda's long-range free-kick to creep in on 55 minutes and Sevilla could not find the two goals they needed as they joined Spanish counterparts Real Madrid in exiting the competition.
Tomas Necid shot CSKA into a 39th minute lead only for Argentine Diego Perotti to equalise two minutes later and level the tie 2-2 on aggregate. Palop then underestimated the ferocity of 23-year-old Honda's free-kick which forced its way in and proved the decisive moment in the tie.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky basked in the glory of the victory and praised his side. "We knew what to expect from them after the first leg," he said. "Having taken the lead we knew they were capable of scoring at any time.
"With the match at 2-2 on aggregate we did well to prevent them from getting another goal. We defended really well. I am happy that despite Sevilla getting back on level terms we didn't allow them to take the initiative and we controlled the match after we scored our second goal."
Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo said: "Of course it is a real shame to go out, but we have to bounce back from this. CSKA deserve it and you have to congratulate them even though it hurts."
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez has never completely won over the fans and this result puts him under some pressure but president Jose Maria del Nido gave him the dreaded vote of confidence. "We know how the fans can be but there were only cries from a section of fans," said del Nido. "Jimenez will continue until the end of the season because he has a contract and we have confidence in him."
Jimenez took all the blame for the defeat himself. "It is a bad result and I ask for our supporters to pardon us for that," he said. "The sole person responsible, is me.
"Sevilla did what they had to do, which was to give it their all but CSKA were well-organised and took its opportunities. Sevilla didn't give up and has been eliminated by a team who was better in both legs."
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez sprung a surprise by fielding Brazilian Luis Fabiano as a lone striker with three speedy wingers behind in Perotti, Diego Capel and Jesus Navas. The club's €15 million club record signing Alvaro Negredo, who scored in the first leg, was left pressing the substitutes bench along with Mali international striker Frederic Kanoute. CSKA also played with one target-man in Necid with Honda in the hole and the dangerous Milos Krasic coming in off the wing.
With just under three minutes gone Sevilla had a golden chance to go in front when Navas, hoping to gatecrash the Spain squad for this summer's FIFA World Cup™, broke down the right and fed Fabiano, but the Brazilian's shot was straight at goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who parried the effort.
A tame shot from Krasic was all CSKA mustered until the 25th minute when Palop fumbled a Honda shot and the midfielder tried again despite being on the ground but his shot went wide.
The Russians drew first blood on 39 minutes when Necid let the ball run cleverly before curling his precise shot into the corner to put his side 2-1 up on aggregate. However, the lead lasted barely two minutes as a long goal-kick from Palop was poorly defended and Navas fed Perotti to prod home to level the match and the tie.
Sevilla were relieved but knew they couldn't concede another away goal as it would mean they would have to score twice to progress. Kanoute came on for Capel at the start of the second half to give Sevilla more punch up front and almost had an immediate impact flicking on a Navas cross, but Perotti couldn't apply the final touch as the ball flew past him at pace.
The hosts were on the front foot, but the unexpected goalkeeping mistake from the usually reliable Palop gave CSKA another away goal and meant Sevilla had to score twice in the remaining 35 minutes. Honda's 55th minute free-kick shot was powerful but should have been saved by Palop who got his positioning all wrong and his reaction showed he felt it was his fault.
CSKA collected a host of yellow cards as they tried to break the game up and prevent Sevilla from having a lifeline. Fabiano went close on 77 minutes but the Russians held on to become the first side to beat Sevilla at home in this season's Champions League and reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Sevilla's exit follows that of Real Madrid, meaning holders Barcelona, who are in action against Stuttgart on Wednesday, are Spain's last hope in the competition.