Moldova's FC Sheriff won the 17th Commonwealth Cup on Sunday, beating FC Aktobe of Kazakhstan on penalties in the final of the friendly competition which brings together champions of the former Soviet republics in Moscow.
The tournament kicked off on 17 January, with the 16 teams – mostly domestic champions – divided into four groups of four for the initial group stage. Russian champions FC Rubin Kazan and their Ukrainian counterparts FC Shakhtar Donetsk both fielded reserve teams and were eliminated before the knockout phase.
With representatives from the two biggest leagues out of the frame, sides from smaller nations seized their chance to shine, with Sheriff and Aktobe battling their way through to the final. Aleksandr Suvorov gave the Moldovan side an eleventh-minute lead, but Yuri Logvinenko struck in the second half to make it 1-1. With no further goals, the tie was decided on a shoot-out with the unfortunate Emil Kenzhesariev the only player to miss as Sheriff won 5-4 on penalties.
"We were without two key players and that was a key factor," said Aktobe coach Vladimir Mukhanov. "Still, this tournament is very useful in terms of preparation for the new season." Sheriff's Leonid Kuchuk added: "This win was doubly satisfying as we have a lot of young players in the squad. I also want to underline that even if the Russian and Ukrainian champions had fielded their strongest lineups they would not have been much better than everyone else."
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