LONDON: Anderlecht, denied the certainty of a place in the Champions League group stage by Chelsea’s triumph last season, will be there in tomorrow’s draw after all – but it was a close call.
The Belgian champions had been demoted to the third qualifying round because Chelsea, as holders, earned the right to claim group status despite having finished sixth in the Premier League and thus outside the Champions League qualifying slots. The reshuffle saw Tottenham Hotspur lose their Champions League ticket altogether and drop into the Europa League.
Anderlecht thus had to qualify out on the pitch which they just about managed, for the first time since 2006-07, with a 2-0 win over AEL Limassol for a 3-2 success on aggregate. That denied the Cypriot champions a chance to emulate APOEL Nicosia who reached the quarter-finals last time.
DR Congo forward Dieudonne Mbokani and Ukraine forward Oleksandr Yakovenko scored both Anderlecht’s comeback goals in the last 10 minutes.
Also through with Anderlecht were Portugal’s Braga, Europa League runners-up in 2011, and financially-troubled Spanish club Malaga .
Braga’s success meant Udinese missed out on a Champions League group opportunity for the second season running. Only two Italian clubs – Juventus and Milan – will thus compete in the groups after Udinese lost 5-4 on penalties to Braga after after the two sides drew 1-1 for a 2-2 aggregate.
Udinese, weakened by the sales of of keeper Samir Handanovic to Internazionale and Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah to Juventus, had been beaten by Arsenal at the same stage last season. They went ahead after 25 minutes through a diving header from Pablo Armero but the Colombian missed an open goal after slipping – crucially – early in the second half. Braga, featuring seven Brazilians, levelled when substitute Ruben Micael headed in Mossoro’s cross in the 72nd minute.
In the shootout Udinese’s own Brazilian substitute Maicosuel tried to emulate Andrea Pirlo’s ‘Panenka’ effort for Italy against England at Euro 2012 by nonchalantly chipping the ball into the middle of the goal but mis-hit his shot and keeper Beto saved.
Malaga set aside concerns that their Qatari owner wants to sell up by reaching the group stage for the first time after drawing 0-0 away to Panathinaikos in Greece. Malaga have seen Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla and Venezuela striker Salomon Rondon depart for Arsenal and Rubin Kazan respectively in what the Andalusian club has described as a process of “internal restructuring”.
BATE Borisov of Belarus and Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb both qualified for the second year running.
Borisov, full name Borisov Works of Automobile and Tractor Electric Equipment, reached the group stage with a 1-1 draw at Israeli champions Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, which gave them a 3-1 aggregate win. Laszlo Lencse curled in a free kick for the Israel side in the 67th minute and BATE survived some anxious moments before Aleksandr Pavlov snatched a stoppage time equaliser on the break.
An early goal by Portuguese midfielder Tonel gave Dinamo Zagreb, Croatian champions for the last six seasons, a 1-0 win at Maribor in neighbouring Slovenia and sent them through 3-1 on aggregate.
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