By Pete Sanderson at Estádio José Alvalade
Sporting Clube de Portugal continued the unfortunate trend set by the Portuguese national team at UEFA EURO 2004™ as they were defeated at home in a major showpiece after being given a cruel lesson in finishing by PFC CSKA Moskva in the UEFA Cup final.
Sporting took a deserved lead when Rogério's wonderful effort sent the home fans into ecstasy in a one-sided first half but were then made to pay for some poor finishing as CSKA ran riot in the second period with goals from Aleksei Berezoutski, Yuri Zhirkov and Vágner Love.
Sporting coach José Peseiro was characteristically positive in his selection, drafting fit-again Joseph Enakarhire into defence at the expense of Anderson Polga in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation, recalling captain Pedro Barbosa down the left and pairing top scorer Liedson with Sá Pinto in attack. CSKA coach Valeriy Gazzaev also showed attacking intent, with Daniel Carvalho deployed just behind strikers Ivica Olic and Vágner Love in a 4-3-1-2 lineup.
But it was the home side who began brighter, setting the tone for a dominant first half in which the Portuguese team performed with style and panache. First Rodrigo Tello saw a shot deflected wide and before ten minutes had elapsed, Fabio Rochemback had already registered three shots on goal. It was hard to fault Sporting's swashbuckling style of play; all that was missing was composure in front of goal. Even the prolific Liedson seemed to have momentarily misplaced his predatory instincts when he mis-hit a shot.
CSKA somehow weathered the early Sporting storm and, as they found their feet, were a touch unlucky not to go ahead in the 14th minute. Pedro Barbosa was booked for a foul on Carvalho down the right and, from the resulting free-kick, Aleksei Berezoutski sent a towering header just over the bar.
All the game needed was a moment of magic and it duly arrived after 29 minutes with a glorious goal, worthy of any final, from the golden boot of Rogério. With Sporting virtually camped in CSKA's half, the ball fell invitingly at the winger's feet on the edge of the area and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could only watch as he thundered a stunning right-foot shot into the top corner of the CSKA net. It was a goal that Sporting richly deserved.
CSKA could have nevertheless gone into the break on level terms but Vágner Love, who was having an unusually quiet evening, somehow conspired to shoot wide with only Ricardo to beat as he met Olic's low centre. The second half began as the first had finished with Sporting probing and CSKA persevering. Liedson was again in the thick of the action on 47 minutes when he launched himself at Pedro Barbosa's cross but failed to connect before Rochemback grazed the bar with a stinging free-kick. It was all going too well for Sporting.
Berezoutski on target
And so it proved on 56 minutes when CSKA hit them with an almighty sucker-punch. The Russian side earned a free-kick in a rare foray into Sporting territory and Aleksei Berezoutski was on hand to nod Carvalho's pinpoint cross beyond the despairing dive of Ricardo. It was a cruel blow after Sporting's dominance but, in the few chances the Russian team had mustered, the hosts' marking was almost non-existent.
If CSKA's first goal was hard to digest, their second was a killer. With Sporting attempting to restore their lead, Carvalho broke forward and held off Enakarhire's challenge to thread an exquisite ball through to Zhirkov and the winger slipped the ball under the body of Ricardo to give CSKA the advantage.
With Sporting reeling, the third and final chapter in the Russian's finishing masterclass effectively ended any chance of a Sporting recovery. Carvalho escaped down the left and picked out Vágner Love with a perfectly weighted centre and this time the Brazilian made no mistake. The goal capped a night of broken dreams in Lisbon, for all but the 2,000 travelling CSKA fans.