By Michael Harrold
PFC CSKA Moskva advanced to their first European semi-final despite losing the second leg of their UEFA Cup last-eight tie at AJ Auxerre.
Chasing a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 first-leg deficit, Auxerre drew strength from Yann Lachuer's ninth-minute strike, before Bonaventure Kalou added a second with a 78th-minute penalty. CSKA defended deeply throughout, and despite offering little as an attacking force, advance comfortably to a meeting with Parma FC.
The contrast in form between these two sides was stark, with Auxerre's defensive frailties highlighted by Sunday's 4-3 defeat by AC Ajaccio. CSKA had followed up the first-leg rout with a 5-0 defeat of FC Krylya Sovetov Samara. And with Auxerre coach Guy Roux's injury problems compounded by the suspension of Jean-Pascal Mignot, it promised to be another difficult evening for the French side.
CSKA, however, had come to defend and Auxerre seized the initiative. Kalou's header from a ninth-minute cross teed up Auxerre captain Lachuer who hooked in a left-foot shot from 12 metres. Auxerre had got the early goal they craved and with Kalou, Benjani Mwaruwari and Kanga Akalé combining well up front, the home support suddenly found belief.
CSKA coach Valeriy Gazzaev, however, moved quickly to snuff out the danger. On 23 minutes he made a double substitution, with Jurijs Laizans and Ivica Olic making way for Daniel Carvalho and Evgeni Aldonin, and CSKA soon took a more solid grip on midfield.
Auxerre were seeing plenty of the ball, and the height of Kalou and Benjani posed some problems in the air, but goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev held his ground well. CSKA's attacking instincts even began to surface towards the end of the half, Carvalho forcing Fabien Cool into his first save.
The half-time substitution of striker Vágner Love through injury further restricted CSKA's attacking threat. Auxerre pressed, but this time could not find the early goal that would have brought the tie to life. Benjani's chip sailed just over then Akinfeev was forced off his line to gather at the feet off Akalé.
Auxerre were, however, revitalised by the 77th-minute introduction of substitute Luigi Pieroni. The Belgian immediately drew a good save from Akinfeev, before winning a penalty under the challenge of Yuri Zhirkov. Kalou sent Akinfeev the wrong way, but a face-saving 2-0 victory was not enough to turn the tie.