Tomáš Necid said a half-time harangue from Leonid Slutski helped PFC CSKA Moskva find their way against ten-man US Città di Palermo, with the striker scoring twice in a comeback win.
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Double goalscorer Tomáš Necid said a few home truths from coach Leonid Slutski helped PFC CSKA Moskva get their act together against ten-man US Città di Palermo before a 3-1 win propelled them to the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
Massimo Maccarone's well-taken header had put the Italian visitors ahead in Moscow, and while they were left a man short by Antonio Nocerino's 31st-minute dismissal, Delio Rossi's side looked comfortable at the interval. However, the Army Men emerged transformed after the break, with Keisuke Honda levelling within two minutes before Necid struck twice to extend his team's 100% Group F record.
"We knew we didn't play well in the first half," said the Czech international. "At half-time the coach told us exactly what he thought of our performance, and thankfully we managed to score early in the second half, which certainly helped us score another couple in quick succession. I was delighted to score two, but the most important thing was we got three points."
The victory maintained CSKA's punishing form in the section: they have won all four matches, scoring three goals in each and conceding just the once. Curiously, they also qualified with maximum points and averaging three goals a game in the 2008/09 group stage. "It's a great moment, especially winning four out of four," said Necid, 21. "Now we are through we can concentrate on finishing as high as we can in our league."
CSKA – currently third in Russia's Premier League – are almost certain of topping their European group, meaning a seeded position in the round of 32 draw. AC Sparta Praha, their Matchday 6 opponents, can theoretically supplant them but "that's very unlikely" according to defender Deividas Šemberas. "We were really happy to win as it wasn't easy, and to keep our 100% record."
Palermo, meanwhile, can only wonder what might have been had Nocerino not collected that second booking. "It was the key point in the game for us," said midfielder Pajtim Kasami. "It's not easy to play against CSKA as they are a quality team, never mind with only ten men."