|Rapid Wien||Sporting CP|
AJ Auxerre progressed to the inaugural UEFA Cup group stage following a comfortable defeat of Danish side Aalborg BK at the Abbé-Deschamps stadium in this first round, second-leg tie.
Veteran coach Guy Roux’s team always looked in control in front of their passionate home fans, and AaB were fortunate to return to Denmark having conceded only two goals. Bonaventure Kalou, the powerful Ivory Coast striker, opened the scoring in the fifth minute and his Zimbabwean team-mate, Benjani Mwaruwari, rounded off matters in the final stages.
Auxerre wasted no time in setting about turning the tie – poised at 1-1 following the first leg a fortnight ago – in their favour. Benjani, the striker handed the unenviable task of replacing Liverpool FC forward Djibril Cissé, almost put his side ahead as early as the second minute when he prodded wide from close range.
Immediately afterwards, however, the deep-lying forward played an instrumental role in the opening goal, chesting a ball into the path of Kalou. The energetic Ivorian striker unleashed an unstoppable drive from outside the area which left goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen stranded.
As well as looking sharp up front, Auxerre were also solid in defence with the new centre-back pairing of René Bolf and Stéphane Grichting working in tandem to keep AaB firmly at bay, and calmly distributing the ball from the back. The midfield, impressively marshalled by captain Yann Lachuer, was also combining fruitfully, picking each other out with precision.
Such a platform enabled Auxerre to pour forward almost at will and led to various chances for the home team to double their lead. Visiting defender Allan Jepsen did well to keep Benjani from sneaking in nine minutes before half-time, knocking the ball out of harm's way when under pressure, and Kalou thundered an effort wide when in space on the edge of the box soon after.
If AaB coach Erik Hamrén believed Auxerre would be happy to protect their one-goal lead after the break he was mistaken. The visiting side performed creditably to keep Roux’s charges out for long periods, but a second goal was inevitable.
It eventually came in the 74th minute, Benjani putting the gloss finish on an outstanding individual performance when he collected a pass from the tireless Lachuer and rounded the last defender before slotting in.
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