FC Artmedia Bratislava coach Vladimir Weiss hailed the heroics of goalkeeper Juraj Čobej after the Slovakian champions defeated FK Partizan on penalties in Belgrade to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time.
Čobej was in brilliant form throughout, superbly denying Simon Vukčević, Pierre Boya and Marko Lomić to set up a shoot-out after the third qualifying round tie had ended 0-0 on aggregate. The custodian then saved from Nenad Brnović in the shoot-out to ensure Artmedia prevailed 4-3 on penalties. "We have to give special thanks to our goalkeeper Juraj Čobej," Weiss said. "He has made us feel like a big European club."
Čobej said he had played the game of his life to keep Artmedia in contention. "I have never played a game like that and am immensely happy with the outcome," he said. "I was hoping we would score once and qualify after a 1-1 draw, but this is just fine. I concentrated on the sixth penalty as hard as possible and it paid off."
Weiss added: "We believed in our dream and now it is reality. This is more than just a great success for us - Partizan have a brilliant team and fantastic fans, but our hearts and organisation over the 120 minutes decided it."
Artmedia pulled off the surprise of the qualifying rounds when they defeated Celtic FC 5-0 in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie, and Weiss believes victory over Partizan proves that result was no flash in the pan. "
We deserve a chance in the Champions League because we have eliminated three clubs to get there, [FC] Kairat [Almaty], Celtic and now Partizan."
Partizan coach Vladimir Vermezovic was philosophical in defeat. "That's life," he said. "Two years ago we eliminated Newcastle United [FC] in Newcastle following a penalty shoot-out, this time fate was against us. We were the better team in both matches and missed about 15 chances."
Artmedia will be the first Slovakian side to play in the group stage since 1. FC Košice during the 1997/98 season. Košice were drawn against Juventus FC, Manchester United FC and Feyenoord and bowed out without winning a point.
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