FC Slavia Praha coach Karel Jarolím hailed the "great spirit" in his side after they defeated AFC Ajax 2-1 to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time.
Slavia had reached the third qualifying round following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against MŠK Žilina and few gave the Czech club much hope against four-times European champions AFC Ajax. However, boosted by the cushion of a 1-0 first-leg lead, the home side completed a 3-1 aggregate win despite being outplayed for large periods on Wednesday. Stanislav Vlček scored twice for the home side either side of a Luis Suárez strike for Ajax, and with goalkeeper Martin Vaniak again excellent Slavia were able to hold out for a historic victory.
"This is the best moment of my career," Jarolím said. "But it was maybe even tougher than seven years ago when we got knocked out by [FC] Shakhtar Donetsk with a goal in extra time. I relaxed only when Vlček scored the second goal. He and the goalkeeper Vaniak were largely responsible for the win. It's thanks to them we're in the [UEFA] Champions League, but the whole side fought with great spirit today."
Ajax coach Henk ten Cate blamed the defeat on his side's lack of cutting edge in front of goal. "We created a good deal of chances but it was not enough to advance," he said after seeing his team crash out of the competition at the same stage for the second successive year. "To play in the Champions League you have to convert the clear-cut chances we had today. We were not focused enough in front of goal and that allowed the home goalkeeper to become the hero."
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