For one man in particular, FC Spartak Moskva's 4-3 aggregate success against FC Basel 1893 following a 1-1 home draw was particularly sweet.
Once seen as the great hope of Russian football, Artem Dzyuba spent much of the last two season loaned out at FC Tom Tomsk. The 22-year-old forward is delighted that his career seems to be back on track after being named in Valeri Karpin's starting lineup for both legs of the Basel tie, and is eager to justify the faith that has been shown in him.
"I am really happy to be back with Spartak and I am learning all the time," said Dzyuba. "I think I have done well over the last couple of games against Basel, as I scored a goal and set up another, and I am going to make sure that I maintain this standard."
After a bright start, Dzyuba and his attacking team-mates were frustrated for long periods of Thursday's game, with their quick movement and flowing passing deserting them. Franco Costanzo was rarely tested in the Basel goal, while Scott Chipperfield's strike on the quarter-hour unsettled Spartak.
"We started off playing in a relaxed frame of mind, as Basel needed two goals to beat us," Dzyuba explained. "
We conceded after 15 minutes, and nerves started to creep into our game. We were more concerned with preserving our aggregate lead, but thankfully we managed to go through to the next round."
Happy to defend in numbers as the clock ticked down, Spartak made the game safe in added time, as Dzyuba's unselfish pass gave Aiden McGeady the simplest of finishes. They will now take on AFC Ajax in the round of 16, and the Irishman expects a stern test.
"It's going to be a hard game as Ajax are a good team, but they are not quite the same side they were eight or nine years ago," said the former Celtic FC player. "They had a tough Champions League group, like ourselves, but I think it should be an even test and we are looking forward to facing them."
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