Even though PFC CSKA Moskva's historic victory against Sevilla FC was fully merited for its tactics, energy and finishing power, it turns out the Russian club will make their debut in Friday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw partly through good luck and good judgment.
The enthralling first knockout round tie was balanced at 2-2 on aggregate ten minutes into the second half when Keisuke Honda stepped forward to hit a thunderous free-kick that would provide the winning goal. However, only seconds before he had been trying to give the opportunity to defender Sergei Ignashevich.
The Japanese international joined CSKA from Dutch team VVV Venlo during the winter and, despite being a match-winner in the Russian league at the weekend against FC Amkar Perm, he did not feel it was his place to take control. However, winger Mark González intervened to persuade Honda he was the man with a cannon in his boot – a decision which proved spectacularly correct.
"Honda didn't really want to take the kick," Chilean international González told UEFA.com. "He thought Ignashevich should instead, but I told Honda he had to take it because he has a really good strike on him. Luckily I managed to convince him, but even so I could hardly believe it when the goal went in.
"We knew from the first leg it was going to be a hard game. The keys were that we went out not feeling any pressure, any anxiety and that meant we were totally focused on our game plan."
That approach included playing quickly and intelligently on the counterattack – and was exemplified by CSKA's first goal, made by Honda and converted by his strike partner Tomáš Necid. "Even though Sevilla started well and could have scored, I felt the next phase of the game was ours," González continued. "In the second half we went out with renewed effort because we knew how important a second goal would be, and we dominated once we got it."
Honda was keen to take any blame from Sevilla goalkeeper Andrés Palop, who appeared to misjudge his 55th-minute set piece. "I didn't expect to score because I thought the keeper would get it, but the ball was a bit wet and maybe that surprised him. Perhaps I got a bit lucky but a goal is a goal. I took a risk in the transfer to CSKA because there is always a risk in any move – but I think I made the right one."
Looking forward, the hard-working González had a special petition regarding Friday's draw. "As a former Liverpool player I'd love to draw Manchester United. CSKA played them in the group stage but I didn't have that opportunity because of injury – it would be nice to face them again because they are great games."
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