Coach Antti Muurinen was delighted to see patience pay off for HJK Helsinki after an Andrius Šidlauskas own goal in the last minute of extra time finally swung a gripping UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie the Finnish champions' way.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Lithuania, HJK's hopes of advancing looked bleak when Dawda Bah was dismissed ten minutes into the second half. Juhani Ojala's 77th-minute header, however, pulled the home side level on aggregate and the momentum was theirs when Ekranas's Giedrius Tomkevičius was also sent off three minutes from time. Even so, penalites were looming until the unfortunate Šidlauskas turned in Sebastian Sorsa's corner in the 119th minute.
These Champions League qualifiers are supposed to be exciting and passionate and this game certainly was," Muurinen said. "We knew it would be a long night. A week ago Ekranas tired in the second half and we felt the same would happen again. We needed one goal to draw level and searched for it with patience. We finally got it and then the second one in the dying stages of extra time."
HJK now meet Serbian champions FK Partizan in the third qualifying round with the first leg to be played in Belgrade next Wednesday. Sorsa, whose delivery from corners set up both his team's goals, praised the 6,000-strong crowd for helping them progress. "This is a tremendous feeling," he said. "
I've never played in front of such a fantastic crowd before."
The midfielder added: "We got so many corners that they had to produce a result sooner or later. It is not every day we come from behind to win this kind of tie. At times it felt a bit desperate, but we played until the end and it paid off."
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