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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CSKA Storms to UEFA Cup Glory

APCSKA players hoisting an ecstatic Gazzayev in the air after the team's victory.
LISBON -- Three goals in 19 minutes changed Russian soccer history in Lisbon on Wednesday as CSKA Moscow completed a remarkable comeback to beat Sporting Lisbon 3-1 and take the UEFA Cup, Russia's first-ever European club trophy.

In front of a fanatical Portuguese home crowd, CSKA, despite being on the back foot for much of the first half, defended coolly and took its chances in the second half to spark hysterical scenes in Moscow and among the 2,000 traveling fans in the Jose Alvalade Stadium.

"My players are heroes. They have done the impossible," said CSKA coach Valery Gazzayev, after being thrown up in the air and sprayed with champagne by his players when the final whistle blew.

As he talked, his hair still wet with champagne and a post-match cigarette burning down in his hand, he said, "This is a landmark victory for Russian soccer. It will give the nation the belief to go on and win more trophies at both the club and the international levels. ... I want another medal. I want the Champions League."

Losing 1-0 at halftime after a stunning goal from Lisbon's Brazilian forward Rogerio, the CSKA team remained calm and -- unlike the Portuguese -- made the most of its chances.

The victory was masterminded by one of CSKA's own Brazilian strikers, Daniel Carvalho, who hit a free kick for Alexei Berezutsky to head into the top of the net for the equalizer. Nine minutes later, Carvalho slid a pitch-perfect pass for Yury Zhirkov to run onto and slip the ball though the goalkeeper's legs to put CSKA 2-1 up.

And it was Carvalho, later voted Man of the Match, who ran onto a swift throw from goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev and set up his fellow Brazilian Vagner Love.

Love slammed the ball into the net, sparking an epidemic of "From Russia With Love" headlines all over Europe.

Carvalho could well have taken some of the blame for the Portuguese goal, but few will ever remind him of that in Moscow.

Now Russian soccer has money -- $400 million per year at last count -- expensive foreigners such as Love and Carvalho and, finally, an international trophy after years of relative failure since the end of the Soviet Union.

"It is extremely important not only for CSKA but for our children's schools," Gazzayev said. "All children will watch and dream of playing in such a final."

The win will also help to exorcise the memory of the national side's humiliating 7-1 defeat at the hands of Portugal in Lisbon last fall.

Immediately after Wednesday's match, CSKA president Yevgeny Giner, Sergei Yastrzhembsky -- a well-known CSKA fan who is the Kremlin's envoy to the European Union -- and Valery Mutko, the new Russian Football Union president, made their way to the CSKA dressing room.

On the way, all three congratulated Russian sports journalists -- and Giner even kissed one, before going into the dressing room to a loud roar from within.

"This is an enormous success for Russian soccer," said Mutko, who took over at the RFU less than a month ago after Kremlin officials convinced his predecessor, Vyacheslav Koloskov, to quit.

"We have been moving toward this victory for years," he said.

Missing from the VIP stand was Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, whose oil company Sibneft sponsors CSKA. Had he been there, Abramovich would have seen CSKA achieve what Chelsea failed to do this season -- win a European trophy.

"Roman Arkadyevich was one of the first to congratulate us," Giner said, referring to Abramovich. "He really wanted to be here, but government business kept him away."

Lisbon and the Jose Alvaladze Stadium had been green and white for most of Wednesday as Sporting Lisbon fans came out in force. But as the Lisbon players trooped off the field it was a bunch of CSKA's red and blue petals, fired into the air behind the team as they picked up the trophy, that covered the center of the pitch like a Jackson Pollock version of the CSKA shirt.

Outnumbered almost 25-1, the CSKA fans were nevertheless a noise machine and out-sang and out-stomped the Sporting fans at several times during the match.

With most of the fans that came on package tours having flown, like the CSKA players, back to Moscow as soon as the match finished, it was left to a few hundred Russian fans to celebrate the team's victory in central Lisbon.

Many of those wandering the small cobbled streets were veteran CSKA fans who traveled thousands of kilometers to watch their team.

"I have been a fan for 25 years, since I was 10," said Max Valentine, a personal trainer, who came all the way from California without a ticket for the match.

Luckily, he bought one Tuesday and watched the final dressed in a Spiderman costume.

"It's red and blue, just like CSKA," Valentine said. "And I am from Hollywood."

The city's streets had been full of Russian expats drawn by the soccer, and Valentine even bumped into a friend from San Francisco who had traveled separately to the match. But the CSKA fan who had come the farthest was one who had traveled for a week all the way from the Antarctic, where he was working at a polar station, the Sport-Express newspaper reported. The club gave him a scarf for his troubles.

Meanwhile, Valentine was being mobbed in a nice way by Sporting Lisbon fans.

"You are the best losers," he shouted, as they drunkenly congratulated the CSKA fans.

"Yes, we are losers," said one Sporting Lisbon fan with a melodramatic grimace.

Another pointed to his chest and said, "But here is pain. Here is pain."

In many ways it was fitting that CSKA should be the team to finally bring an international trophy to Russia, as it was the Army side that was abruptly disbanded after the Soviet Union's first missteps in international soccer in the 1952 World Cup. It may have been the national team that lost to Yugoslavia, but it was the Red Army players who were told to fall on their swords.

It is said that Stalin, fuming after the loss to hated rival Josef Tito's Yugoslavia, ordered the club closed down and its players dispersed to lesser teams as a punishment.

The Red Army's postwar team had been the club's greatest-ever side. But on Wednesday night, more than 50 years later, CSKA has a new set of heroes to be proud of, after the culmination of their glorious European adventure.