FC Shakhtar Donetsk hero Brandão admitted "fortune smiled on us" after the Ukrainian side secured their place in today's UEFA Champions League group stage draw in dramatic circumstances.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg against FC Salzburg, Shakhtar's prospects looked slim when they lost an early goal in last night's return. Although Cristiano Lucarelli made it 1-1 soon afterwards, they still entered the final 12 minutes of the match needing to score twice to progress. Nery Castillo got one of those two goals after 79 minutes but it was not until substitute Brandão struck three minutes from time that Shakhtar could celebrate.
"It was very hard," said Brandão. "I felt that the Champions League was very close when it got to 1-1 because we found our rhythm and kept going forward. In the end our prayers were answered." Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu admitted there were moments when he did not believe his team would come back. "After [Olexandr] Gladkiy missed some good chances, I doubted we would be able to score two more. But after Brandão scored, our joy had no bounds."
Even the Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovich joined in the noisy celebrations that followed, during which club president Rinat Akhmetov admitted to having dreamed about Salzburg's early opener. "I knew that we would concede first," he said. "You might not believe me, but I had a dream about that." The nightmare became a dream, however, thanks to the late contribution of supersub Brandão. "I lost my voice after our third goal," admitted Akhmetov, who can now look forward to his club's fourth group stage campaign.
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