FK Sarajevo fans partied into the night after their side came through an "exhausting battle" to earn a tie against FC Dynamo Kyiv for a place in the group stage.
The Bosnia-Herzegovnian title-holders, playing in the European Champion Clubs' Cup for only the third time in their history, lost 1-0 at home to KRC Genk at the Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadium but held on to progress on away goals after a 2-1 first-leg victory in Belgium. Supporters took to the streets of the capital in celebration but, while they danced with delight, the Sarajevo players had already turned attention to a duel with Dynamo in the third qualifying round.
Chief among them was summer signing Marko Maksimović, with the 22-year-old midfielder jubiliant after this latest success was added to the elimination of Marsaxlokk FC of Malta in the first qualifying round. He said: "Genk were the favourites before the tie but the favourites do not always succeed. We did well in the first match and managed to preserve our advantage over Genk in front of our own fans. We are very happy to go through but have big respect for the Ukrainian champions. They too will be the favourites."
Genk coach Hugo Broos paid tribute to the hosts, not least the strong defensive display that did much to protect inspired home goalkeeper Muhamed Alaim in the final half-hour after Genk had levelled the aggregate scores. Such exertions will have taken their toll but Sarajevo coach Husref Musemić has little time to rest his players before Dynamo come calling next week. "It was a hard and exhausting battle," he said. "The visitors knew it was a case of all or nothing. They won but the most important thing is that we are through to the next round. I have to congratulate my players on the huge effort they gave to make our dreams come true.
This is a really historic moment for us. We have made our fans proud."