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Neftçi nerve holds in Azerbaijan Cup final

Goalkeeper Saša Stamenković was the shoot-out hero as Neftçi PFK held their nerve to win their sixth Azerbaijan Cup after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes against first-time finalists Qäbälä FK.

Neftçi have won their sixth Azeri Cup
Neftçi have won their sixth Azeri Cup ©Viktoriya Melnik

Neftçi PFK made amends for not winning the title this season, claiming their second successive Azerbaijan Cup with a 3-2 victory on penalties against Qäbälä FK, with the teams level at 1-1 after extra-time. Neftçi goalkeeper Saša Stamenković turned out to be the shoot-out hero, fatigue having taken its toll in the final 30 minutes.

In the final for the first time, Qäbälä had the bulk of the crowd behind them, a good number having made the 200km trip to the Tofig Bahramov Republican Stadium to follow them. However, Neftçi were to take the lead on 50 minutes, FC Lokomotiv Moskva trainee Samir Masimov scoring from the edge of the area moments after Flavinho had spurned a chance to beat Kamran Agayev from the 19-year-old's cross.

Former Russia head coach Yuri Semin responded by putting on an additional striker in Danijel Subotić, and Qäbälä drew level on 72 minutes. Marat Izmailov – on loan from FC Porto – crowned one of his best performances for the club with a neat finish after Victor Mendy's pass. However, Qäbälä ultimately could not deny the Baku side their sixth Azerbaijan Cup triumph.

"It was a real final," said relieved Neftçi coach Boyukagha Hajiyev. "It was not easy but our team proved again that we can make any other side sweat. We wanted to claim domestic double once again but failed and Neftci can never be allowed to finish the season empty-handed. Our goalkeeper Saša Stamenković won it for us today."

Midfielder Masimov added: "I was a bit nervous at first because it was my first cup final, but by the break I was into the flow of the game and had some confidence. It was just as well we practiced penalty kicks. That helped us."