FC Steaua Bucureşti cancelled out a two-goal first-leg deficit to triumph 2-0 on the night, before outwitting AFC Ajax in the first penalty shoot-out witnessed in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.
Long before the spot-kick drama, though, the game had burst into life when Iasmin Latovlevici scored after 38 minutes, before Vlad Chiricheş' stunning second-half strike prolonged events for a further half an hour. Still, this round of 32 tie remained locked at 2-2, and after Lasse Schøne and Niklas Moisander spurned their penalties, Latovlevici kept his composure for a second time to set up a last-16 encounter with Chelsea FC.
Frank de Boer's side seized the initiative in the opening exchanges, dictating possession with metronomic consistency. Effervescent midfielder Viktor Fischer led the charge, his penchant for cutting inside almost paying dividends when a left-footed effort fizzed past a post. However, their grip on proceedings, almost vice-like, evaporated in the blink of an eye in the Romanian capital.
Peeling into space off the shoulder of Ricardo van Rhijn, rampaging full-back Latovlevici watched the ball sail over his marker and delicately lifted it past the onrushing Kenneth Vermeer. Undeterred, the Amsterdam outfit stuck vehemently to a short, sharp passing game, while Laurenţiu Reghecampf's men countered at dizzying pace.
Steaua came within a post's width of justifying their approach shortly after the restart, Adrian Popa's thumping strike bouncing back off the woodwork, while Fischer crashed a shot narrowly wide for the visitors. The atmosphere inside Bucharest's National Stadium was simmering and it boiled over when Chiricheş rifled a venomous half-volley in off the underside of the bar to force extra time.
From then on, Ajax looked the more likely to prevail with schemer Christian Eriksen crossing for Moisander, who headed centimetres wide. The Finland defender would leave his most harrowing miss for the ensuing shoot-out, however, as his team's dream of a place in the Amsterdam ArenA final on 15 May was cruelly ended.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.