By Eduard Nisenboim at Dinamo Stadium
Two goals in four minutes helped PFC CSKA Moskva earn a place in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and finally ended the spirited challenge of Azerbaijani title-holders PFC Neftchi.
CSKA were surprisingly eliminated by FK Vardar at the same stage of this competition a year ago, but strikes from Rolan Gusev and Vágner Love midway through the second half ensured Valeriy Gazzaev's side avoided a repeat performance. The Russian champions now meet Scottish side Rangers FC for a place in the group stage.
Gazzaev made two changes to the starting lineup from the match in Baku, as Miloš Krasic and Chidi Odiah made way for Vasiliy Berezutskiy and Evgeny Aldonin. CSKA came out an energetic and motivated side, as if determined to exorcise the ghosts of their experience last season, and quickly took control of the match after a goalless first leg in Baku.
CSKA captain Sergei Semak should have scored twice in the first half - the midfield player first blasting over from a good position on 14 minutes before his header from Ivica Olic's cross four minutes before the interval narrowly failed to break the deadlock.
Neftchi were forced to rely on the occasional counterattack, but from one of them the visitors almost took the lead after 54 minutes as Gurban Gurbanov broke the offside trap and raced clear. However, CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev denied the forward, and saved again from Gurbanov moments later.
Neftchi's solid defence was finally breached on 68 minutes, CSKA full-back Berezutski crossing for Gusev to place a diving header just inside the post to put the Russian side in front.
Brazilian international Love came on for his CSKA debut in the second half and made an immediate impact, winning three free-kicks in promising positions straight away, before effectively clinching the tie in the 72nd minute with a well-aimed low shot from 20 metres.
"It was an interesting game," said Gazzaev. "
Neftchi are a decent side and it was certainly not a walkover. Overall we had the edge, we had the chances, and we took some of them. Now we have to look forward to Rangers." The CSKA coach was in charge of FC Alania Vladikavkaz in 1996/97 when they lost 10-3 to the Scottish team in the Champions League qualifying round.
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