Khazar became the second Azeri team to win the annual tournament for the champions of the former Soviet republics, with PFC Neftchi having won the tournament – also under Mirdzhavadov – in 2006. The cup’s status has taken a knock with the Russian and Ukrainian champions not fielding first teams, but the Khazar coach was not about to see his side’s efforts dismissed.
"I can’t agree with people who talk about the low standard of the Commonwealth Cup participants," said Mirdzhavadov, whose Neftchi side lost to FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the final of the 2005 edition. "Yes, the Russian and Ukrainian champions were not fielding their strongest lineups, but the standard of the teams is still high."
UEFA President Michel Platini and his FIFA counterpart Joseph S Blatter were among the fans in St Petersburg who saw Khazar beat Uzbek champions FC Pakhtakor of Tashkent 4-3 in the final on 27 January, with a stunning strike from Azeri international Zaur Ramazanov drawing applause from the former France star. Benefiting from the relaxation of Azeri rules governing foreign players, Brazilians Diego and Souza also scored and were among the best players at the tournament.
Wins against Moldova’s FC Sheriff – on penalties – and Belarus’s FC BATE Borisov had taken the Azeri champions to the final after they won their qualifying group. "The Sheriff game was the most difficult for us, as we only managed to secure a draw in the final minutes," said Mirdzhavadov, reflecting on Khazar’s quarter-final success. "Our players showed their determination once again. I want to thank our fans. Many of them came to St Petersburg with the sole aim of supporting us. I want to thank all the people who had faith in us."
It was the crowning achievement of Khazar’s four-year history. Founded by local magnate Mubariz Mansimov, they were coached by Nazim Suleymanov, Rasim Kara and Viktor Pasulko before Mirdzhavadov was lured over from Neftchi in the summer of 2006. The next year, he added a sixth Azeri crown to the five he won with Neftchi, and also led Khazar to Azerbaijan Cup success.