By Eduard Nisenboim & Pavle Gognidze
When PFC CSKA Moskva take to the pitch against Sporting Clube de Portugal in tonight's UEFA Cup final, they have the chance to break a long run of bad fortune. While Soviet clubs won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup three times, no Russian side has ever lifted a major European trophy.
Ukrainian club FC Dynamo Kyiv claimed the Cup Winners' Cup in 1974/75 and 1985/86 while the gifted FC Dinamo Tbilisi team of 1980/81 took the crown for Georgia. But the best Russia has been able to muster was FC Dinamo Moskva's unsuccessful trip to the 1971/72 Cup Winners' Cup final.
Many Russians insist the idea of European club competition was born in Moscow. FC Spartak Moskva's decision to play home and away friendlies against Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in 1954 and 1955 helped inspire the standard format of all future European ties. Spartak lost 4-0 in England but won 3-0 at home.
Once the European tournaments were firmly established, Spartak were the first side to take part, winning 3-1 against OFK Beograd in Belgrade in their opening Cup Winners' Cup tie on 28 September 1966. Current Russia coach Yuri Semin opened the scoring for Spartak while goalkeeper Vladimir Maslachenko saved two second-half penalties.
Dinamo were the big success story, though, reaching the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup final, taking on Scotland's Rangers FC in Barcelona. However, Lev Yashin and company were caught cold, going 3-0 down before goals from Vladimir Eshtrekov and Aleksandr Makhovikov restored Dinamo's pride before the end.
The match will also be remembered for fans entering the pitch during and after the game. Unrest at the stadium was so widespread that UEFA president Gustav Wiederkehr had to give Rangers their trophy in their dressing room. The Scottish club were then subsequently handed a one-year ban from European club competitions following the unsavoury incidents at the Camp Nou.
"The Scottish supporters were out on the pitch a few times during the match and my players were intimidated, which influenced the course of the game," said Dinamo coach Konstantin Beskov. "We had the advantage and momentum at the end of the game when the fans broke on to the pitch and attacked our players and the Spanish police."
Spartak had the best opportunities to restore some prestige for Russian football in subsequent decades, and few will forget their 1990/91 European Champion Clubs' Cup campaign which saw them beat a Diego Maradona-powered SSC Napoli and Real Madrid CF to reach the semi-finals, only to lose 5-2 on aggregate to French side Olympique de Marseille.
Spartak overcame Liverpool FC and Feyenoord to make the semi-finals of the 1992/93 Cup Winners' Cup, where they went down 3-2 on aggregate to R. Antwerp FC. The team had a similarly successful run - with an unhappy ending - in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup, succumbing to FC Internazionale Milano in the last four.
FC Lokomotiv Moskva became only the third Russian side to reach a European semi-final, but lost successive Cup Winners' Cup showdowns against S.S. Lazio and VfB Stuttgart in 1997/98 and 1998/99. After all that heartbreak, Russia's luck is due a change.
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