Skenderbeu becomes first Albanian club to reach Champions League play-off

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 6, 2015 10:16

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  • “Skënderbeu are the first Albanian team to get to the play-offs and will make their nation's debut in the group stage of either this competition or the UEFA Europa League,” wrote Europe’s football governing body on its website

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skend 2TIRANA, Aug. 6 – Skenderbeu has become the first Albanian club to qualify for the Champions League play-offs after beating Moldova’s Milsami 4-0 on aggregate in the competition’s third qualifying round.

The Albanian five-time consecutive champions won 2-0 in the home match on Wednesday night with two goals by Salihi and Progni in each half, making history in European football as they have already automatically qualified for the less prestigious Europa League group stage even if they fail to qualify in the Champions League play-offs. Milsami, who also suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first-leg match, played in ten men from the 14th minute after having a player sent off.

“Skënderbeu are the first Albanian team to get to the play-offs and will make their nation’s debut in the group stage of either this competition or the UEFA Europa League,” wrote Europe’s football governing body on its website.

Skenderbeu striker Hamdi Salihi who has joined the club only recently but proved decisive in the club’s success with his goals described the qualification as a golden moment for Albanian football.  The striker who has played in Austria, U.S., China and Israel is now the competition’s top scorer on five.

“We are very happy. The team showed maturity up to this stage and we are still with our feet on the ground. Albanian football is having a great moment and this should make us all happy,” said Salihi, who is willing to continue his European dream with the southeastern Albanian club.

Skenderbeu’s European dream has also been lucky as it previously beat Northern Ireland’s Crusaders, a semi-professional club and was drawn against Moldova’s Milsami in the third round.

The play-off draw will be held on Friday August 7 with a tough tie expected for Skenderbeu.

Meanwhile, UEFA’s disciplinary committee has awarded Poland’s Legia Warsaw a 3-0 victory with Kukes and fined the Albanian team Euro 70,000 after the Europa League qualifier in Albania was abandoned following crowd trouble and the injury of a Legia player who was hit with an object.

On the club front, Skënderbeu, five-in-a-row Albanian Super League winners between 2011 and 2015, became the first Albanian club to reach the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round in 2013/14 and that same summer, together with FK Kukësi, were the first Albanian team to contest the UEFA Europa League play-offs.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 6, 2015 10:16