It’s been 17 years since a Polish club successfully passed through the elimination stages of the Champions League. At times, Polish teams have been just minutes away from advancing to the group stage. That happened in 2005, when Wisła Kraków lost in overtime to Greece’s Panathinaikos Athens. This year Legia, champions of Poland’s T-Mobile Ekstraklasa league, also came up short, needing one more goal to reach what Polish fans see as the promised land.
After a 1-1 draw in the first away game against Romanian side Steaua Bucarest, Legia needed either a goalless draw or a win at their stadium. But those hopes quickly faded after Steaua scored two goals in the 7th and 9th minute.
Legia fans were in a sour mood last week
Legia quickly went on the offensive, doing whatever they could to produce goals as quickly as possible. The plan initialy worked, with Miroslav Radovic scoring on a header in the 27th minute. The attacks continued throughout the first half, but none were successful.
In the second half, Legia controlled the game, but did not pose much of a threat to Steaua’s defense, mostly getting held up in the middle of the pitch. Legia’s second goal came too late to turn the tide – Jakub Rzeêniczak scored in the 93rd minute – and the Warsaw side was left a goal short of reaching the Champions League group stage.
With two wins and four draws in the qualifying games, Legia is left with the consolation prize of playing in the group stage of the Europa League.
The Warsaw side will play in Group J, alongside Italy’s Lazio, Turkey’s Trabzonspor and Apollon Limassol of Cyprus.
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