One point from six Group G games was the worst return in PFC CSKA Moskva's four UEFA Champions League campaigns. They were already out before Wednesday's 3-1 defeat at Fenerbahçe SK, but the manner of the loss summed up what went wrong this season for goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Lead lost again
CSKA scored first in Istanbul, as Fenerbahçe defender Edu turned a 30th-minute Caner Erkin cross into his own net, but barely had the celebrations ended when the home side equalised. The visitors trailed by half-time and a depleted CSKA side could do little to avoid a fifth Group G reverse. Their exit is more painful for the fact that they led in four of their six matches including in the sole draw at home to Fenerbahçe on Matchday 2, when Deivid made the score 2-2 with just five minutes to go.
"Unfortunately we were unlucky in this campaign," Akinfeev told uefa.com. "We would score a goal then concede within a couple of minutes. Now we must pick ourselves up and be strong next time around." The 21-year-old missed the home game with Fenerbahçe with the knee injury that kept him out until Matchday 4, when things already looked bleak, but Akinfeev makes not excuses. "To be honest we only deserved one point in this group as we were not very strong."
No Russian club have reached the first knockout round since 2003/04, but the following season was the setting for perhaps that nation's finest achievement in European football as CSKA won the UEFA Cup, beating Sporting Clube de Portugal in their own stadium in Lisbon with Akinfeev in the lineup. Russia's first-choice goalkeeper was ruled out for nearly six months in May but was back in the squad - albeit as an unused substitute - in time to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008™ last month, and Akinfeev is confident that the good times can return in club competition too. "Of course Russian club football is not at the highest level but we had a fantastic season a couple of years ago when we won the UEFA Cup," he said. "I think Russian football can improve even more and we will reach the highest European level."
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