PFC CSKA Moskva continued their impressive start to this UEFA Champions League Group H campaign against Paris Saint-Germain FC, thanks to an early kick-off and the performance of second-half substitute Sergei Semak.
Semak the hero
The home side had looked short of ideas up front until Semak replaced injured striker Ivica Olic after 57 minutes. Within 20 minutes, he had both scored himself and won a penalty, subsequently converted, with a mazy run in the area, thus ensuring that CSKA won their first-ever group match.
PSG went into the game in wretched form, having won only one of their first nine games of the season and with one success in their last eight Champions League fixtures. The visitors clearly missed their injured playmaker, Jérôme Rothen, and were also without centre-back Mario Yepes. Consequently they reverted to a 3-5-2 formation, with Hélder coming into the defence and Charles-Edouard Coridon and Jean-Michel Badiane boosting the midfield.
Akinfeev saves well
For CSKA, Rolan Gusev replaced the suspended Chidi Odiah on the right while Yuri Zhirkov came in for Osmar Ferreyra on the left. But CSKA started on the back foot, and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev dived full length to push José Pierre-Fanfan's snapshot around the post, after the hosts failed to clear a bouncing ball. The CSKA goalkeeper was then relieved to see Danijel Ljuboja head wide after outjumping Sergei Ignashevich.
Few CSKA chances
Olic provided CSKA's brightest moments of the first half, his acceleration and close control causing concern. After 23 minutes Pierre-Fanfan slid in to block one shot, and Zhirkov was unable to convert the rebound. But CSKA created little: Jirí Jarošik had one effort from distance held by Lionel Letizi, before Vágner Love broke into the box only for Sylvain Armand to deprived him of a shooting opportunity.
Pauleta had the best chance in a lacklustre opening period, when Akinfeev spilled a shot from Coridon. The ball sat invitingly three metres from goal, but the Portugal striker hesitated and Aleksei Berezoutski slid in to deny him. The pattern of the match continued in the second half as PSG persisted in shooting from distance, with no success.
The game changed just before the hour when Olic limped off and Semak entered the fray. If Semak's introduction was the turning point of the match, it was the hard-working Evgeny Aldonin who provided the inspiration. The Russian midfield player burst down the left and played a perfectly weighted through-ball for Vágner Love. The Brazilian's effort to chip the onrushing Letizi was foiled, but the goalkeeper could only parry the ball into the path of Semak, who stooped to break the deadlock from eight metres out.
The goal lifted the hosts and Vágner Love went close after combining excellently with Semak. Then Jarošik hit a left-footed shot narrowly wide of the post after a good lay-off from Semak. PSG rallied briefly with Ljuboja glancing an Armand cross wide, and Pauleta missing with a shot from a tight angle.
That was only a brief respite from another wave of CSKA attacks as they looked to kill off the game. Jarošik dragged one effort off-target before another substitute, Dmitri Kiritchenko, dived in to connect with Semak's cross-shot but was centimetres short. The crucial second goal came after Semak jinked into the PSG area and was brought down by Badiane. Vágner Love took the ensuing penalty and his shot crept under the body of Letizi to double the lead and secure the three points.