Fenerbahçe SK finally got through the UEFA Champions League group stage at the fifth attempt after they overcame a momentary scare to inflict the fifth defeat of PFC CSKA Moskva's unhappy campaign.
Knockout place secure
Although CSKA were already out and severely depleted, they took the lead on 30 minutes through an Edu own goal. But probably the star man of Fenerbahçe's Group G run, Alex, swiftly levelled and an Uğur Boral goal late in each half gave the Turkish title-holders the advantage they needed to dash any PSV Eindhoven hopes of pipping them to the first knockout round. In any case, the Dutch side lost at home to group winners FC Internazionale Milano.
CSKA's domestic season ended a month ago, and suspension and injuries – including to talismanic Brazilian strikers Vágner Love and Jô – had reduced the Russian team to a 15-man squad. Therefore it was hardly surprising that Fenerbahçe were on top from the start. Within five minutes Mehmet Aurélio had gone close and an Edu header forced Igor Akinfeev into a save.
The visitors did settle, with some nice touches from Turkish teenager Caner Erkin, but Fenerbahçe were not kept down for long and Akinfeev denied Semih Şentürk and Alex in quick succession. The goalkeeper was beaten when Deivid leapt to meet a corner, requiring Evgeni Aldonin to block on the line. However, the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium was silenced on the half-hour as Caner crossed low into the area from the left and Edu slid the ball into his own net.
Within two minutes, though, Alex had equalised after he controlled a clearance on his chest 25 metres out and thumped a shot into the top corner. Akinfeev had no chance of stopping it, and while he did make a good save from an Aurélio header, the half would finish with the home fans in full voice: Alex played a quick one-two with Semih Şentürk before slipping a pass through to Uğur Boral, who marked his group-stage debut by beating the CSKA keeper at the near post.
One of CSKA's three available outfield substitutes, Pavel Mamaev, came on at half-time to make his European bow, becoming the fourth teenager to be fielded here by Valeri Gazzaev. The youngest player on the pitch, 18-year-old Dawid Janczyk, troubled Volkan Demirel with a fierce effort while the 34-year-old Roberto Carlos, on his 125th UEFA competition appearance, let fly from distance but Akinfeev touched the ball wide.
Uğur Boral then cut in from the left to produce an excellent cross that was headed wide from point-blank range by Semih Şentürk. If the news that Inter were leading PSV only increased the party atmosphere in Istanbul, this nearly went up another notch when Uğur Boral struck the crossbar with a zipping half-volley. CSKA did not give up their vain quest to avoid their lowest-ever group stage finish of one point, yet their night ended in further disppointment as Uğur Boral nodded in the third in the last minute. Fenerbahçe's tally of eleven points was the best by a Turkish team – eclipsing Galatasaray AS's record would only have added to their joy.