PFC CSKA Moskva's best UEFA Champions League run may be over, but goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and winger Mark González believe the team proved their worth in reaching the quarter-finals.
CSKA progressed beyond the group stage for the first time and had further reason to celebrate after knocking out Sevilla FC in the round of 16. FC Internazionale Milano proved too strong in the last eight, however, as they claimed a pair of 1-0 victories – the second thanks to Wesley Sneijder's sixth-minute free-kick on Tuesday.
Akinfeev was caught out for that goal yet produced fine saves from Sneijder, Dejan Stanković and Diego Milito to keep CSKA in contention, although any hopes of a comeback were reduced when Chidi Odiah was sent off early in the second half.
"After an exhausting game at San Siro we knew Inter would keep faith with their system and play on the break again," said Akinfeev, CSKA's captain. "
An awkward free-kick we brought on ourselves resulted in an early goal and after that Inter just took the game where they wanted. As for the red card, you can't do that against this team. Then they showed their class and just played the ball around."
Although Akinfeev's side increasingly saw more of the ball and had chances, "it was because Inter allowed us to have possession," said the 23-year-old. "They relaxed and gave us a lot of room at the back so we could launch several good moves and have some decent shots, but they didn't lead to a goal so Inter go on and we don't."
The right-sided González, who had two attempts kept out by Júlio César, reflected on the difference between the teams. "Maybe we were a bit unlucky," he said, "but maybe we could have played more for the team – maybe we were too individual. We had a few opportunities but there is no point saying that because we didn't score.
"The early goal was decisive. We never thought they would score so quickly. The wall jumped and [Sneijder] was quite lucky. That was the key moment which gave them confidence and the ability to play a different game. Another factor was Odiah's dismissal in the second half after which it was very difficult for us."
Even so, the Russian club could be pleased with their campaign. González said: "
I'm disappointed because we didn't play our best and we bowed out of the competition. But we have to be happy as well, because nobody thought we could reach this stage, so from that point of view we are satisfied."
His words were echoed by his skipper. "How can we be bitter when we made it to the last eight?" Akinfeev said. "I am not saying this is a huge result but for us, for the current CSKA, it is a big achievement. We are proud we got this far."
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