Hamburger SV coach Thomas Doll has spoken of his relief at seeing his team return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in six seasons.
The 1982/83 European champions had one of the trickiest ties of the third qualifying round when they were paired with CA Osasuna, the surprise package of the last Spanish campaign. After a 0-0 draw in Hamburg a fortnight ago, the odds seemed stacked in Osasuna's favour in Pamplona last night. Doll would have despaired even further when Javier Cuéllar put the hosts in front after just six minutes but his men held their nerve and a late equaliser from Nigel de Jong ensured progress on away goals.
Doll said: "We had to be patient at the start of the game and we were under pressure when we conceded the early goal. But I knew that as long as there was time to play, we would not give up. We had spent a whole season in the Bundesliga trying to get to the [UEFA] Champions League. It was extremely important for the players and for the club to be able to compete with the best. This is a very big moment for us. Now the tension is gone and the lads can celebrate."
De Jong, the Netherlands midfielder, would have been forgiven for leading the celebrations, given he was responsible for the night's crucial strike. The 21-year-old broke home hearts when he bundled in the ball from close range following Benjamin Lauth's diving header across goal. De Jong has UEFA Champions League experience with AFC Ajax, but even if he knew exactly what was at stake, he was at a loss to describe it after the final whistle. "It is a difficult feeling to express," he said. "We reached our goal and this is simply sensational."
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