MALMO: Spain became the first nation to have five teams in the Champions League group stage in a single season after Valencia led the qualifiers through the playoff by defeating Monaco 4-3 on aggregate despite a 2-1 defeat in Monte Carlo.
The Primera Division side were leading 3-1 from the play-off first leg and looked to be cruising through when Alvaro Negredo took advantage of a defensive mistake to put Los Che, runners-up in 2000 and 2001, ahead after just four minutes with a sublime chip.
However, Monaco, who lost to Porto in the 2004 final, fought back and goals from Andrea Raggi (17) and Elderson (75) set up a grandstand finish at the Stade Louis II.
The home side could not find an equaliser, though, to leave Valencia 4-3 winners on aggregate and join Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Europa League champions Sevilla in the group stage.
Other Champions League group qualifiers were Dinamo Zagreb (6-2 agg v Skenderbeu), Shakhtar Donetsk (3-2 agg v Rapid Vienna), Maccabi Tel-Aviv (away goals, 3-3 agg v Basel) and Malmo, who ended Celtic’s hopes.
Celtic, leading 3-2 from the first leg, fell behind to a goal from skipper Markus Rosenberg who had been banned from the Glasgow tie. However, just before the interval Parkhead midfielder Nir Bitton had the ball in the net from a corner only for Serbian referee Milorad Mazic to award a foul to the home side.
It appeared a harsh decision and there was more upset in the 54th minute when Malmo grabbed their second goal with a header from substitute Felipe Carvalho which Hoops defender Dedryck Boyata could only divert over the line.
Celtic manager Ronny Deila had passed up on two chances to qualify for European football’s elite club competition last season and yet another failure is set to cost the club upwards of £15m though this will offset partially by Europa League revenues.
Skenderbeu‘s hopes of becoming the first Albanian club to reach the group stages came to an end in Zagreb as they were beaten 4-1 on Tuesday despite opponents Dinamo playing almost the entire second half with a man less.
Dinamo won the first leg 2-1 and that was the same scoreline 15 minutes into the second leg, with goals from El Arabi Soudani and Armin Hodzic sandwiching an equaliser from Esquerdinha.
Skenderbeu were given a lifeline when Dinamo midfielder Goncalo Santos was sent off three minutes into the second half, but the visitors could not take advantage as the Croatian side added further goals through Jeremy Taravel and Soudani to seal an ultimately comfortable 6-2 aggregate triumph.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv will be featuring in the group stages for only the second time – and first since the 2004-05 season – after upsetting Basel.
Luca Zuffi’s 11th-minute goal put Basel 1-0 up on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, but in-form Maccabi skipper Eran Zahavi equalised 13 minutes later and the home side held on to go through on away goals after a 3-3 draw.
Zahavi has now scored seven goals in this season’s competition.
The night’s other match saw 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk put their name in the hat for Thursday’s draw after beating Rapid Vienna 3-2 on aggregate following a 2-2 second-leg draw.
All the goals came in the opening half-hour at the Arena Lviv with Shakhtar – looking to make the group stage for a sixth successive year – netting through Marlos (10) and Olexandr Gladkiy (27), either side of goals from Louis Schaub (13) and Steffen Hofmann (22) for Rapid.