Panathinaikos FC coach Alberto Malesani praised his players' resolve after Ilias Kotsios's dramatic extra-time winner earned the Greek side a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage at Wisla Kraków's expense. "This qualification is the fruit of my players' will and determination," the Italian said. "Nothing is impossible in life."
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Panathinaikos forced their way back into the third qualifying round encounter with goals from Nasief Morris and Emmanuel Olisadebe midway through the second half. The Greens were ahead on the away goals rule until Radoslaw Sobolewski struck for Wisla 12 minutes from time to swing the tie back in the Polish champions' favour.
Dimitrios Papadopoulos then scored with three minutes remaining to send the game into extra time. Panathinaikos's task was eased slightly by the 90th-minute dismissal of Sobolewski, and the hosts made the man advantage count, Kotsios heading in to complete a remarkable 4-1 victory with a penalty shoot-out looming.
'Nothing is impossible'
"I talked to my players for just two minutes at half-time," Malesani said. "I told them nothing is impossible in life, that they should have faith. I also reminded them of the Champions League final between [AC] Milan and Liverpool [FC]. I am the first to believe that anything can happen and I tried to remind them of that. I want to congratulate them and thank them – some of them played 120 minutes and were running 100 kilometres an hour despite having cramp."
'Heaven and hell'
Midfielder Anthony Šeric insisted Panathinaikos never lost hope despite their first-leg defeat. "We gave everything we had to win and qualify," he said. "I knew deep down that we would not waste this opportunity. It was a trip from heaven to hell and back - an unforgettable experience."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.