Bănel Nicoliţă's 57th-minute goal earned FC Steaua Bucureşti a third consecutive UEFA Champions League group stage campaign at the expense of Galatasaray AŞ.
In the preceding two years Steaua had come through the third qualifying round with a home win following a 2-2 away draw and they completed a hat-trick when Nicoliţă turned in Juan Carlos Toja's pass. There was little to choose between the teams and Galatasaray were nearly rewarded for their positive tactics in Romania – but they must now concentrate on emulating last season's run to the UEFA Cup Round of 32.
Harry Kewell, Shabani Nonda, Lincoln and Arda Turan all started for the Turkish side as they strove to turn around a tie in which they trailed on away goals at kick-off. Within four minutes Kewell had hit the crossbar and it took until midway through the half for the hosts to create a clear chance, Arthur Bernhardt shooting wide. Steaua now warmed to the task and increasingly Galatasaray were blunted by the discipline and organisation of Marius Lăcătuş's team.
Eight minutes into the second half, Bernhardt emulated Kewell by heading against the woodwork but Steaua were soon ahead on the night thanks to Nicoliţă as he latched on to Toja's ball from deep. Galatasaray now had to score twice yet Steaua continued to contain them and, just as between 1994/95 and 1996/97, the former European champions are into the competition proper for a third successive season – with the aim of progressing to the knockout rounds for the first time.
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