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Hamburger SV's Guy Demel told UEFA.com he could see his club's dream of reaching the UEFA Europa League final fading as RSC Anderlecht ran the German side desperately close in a breathless round of 16 decider.
The UEFA Europa League final hosts have made no secret of their desire to feature both on and off the pitch when the competition's inaugural showpiece takes place on 12 May. That lofty ambition remains intact, but only after a 4-3 second-leg defeat in Brussels completed a narrow 6-5 aggregate win.
"Of course we were worried. I imagine it was a great game for the fans, and that they were just as worried in front of their televisions as we were in the stadium," said Demel, who watched the drama unfold from the substitutes' bench at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. "The most important thing for us, though, is that we are through. Our objective is to reach the final. It certainly wasn't easy, but at this stage of the competition there are only good teams, and Anderlecht are a very good team."
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Anderlecht twice bounced back after goals from Jerome Boateng and Marcell Jansen appeared to have cut them adrift. The runaway Belgian league leaders pulled level on aggregate, and even threatened to complete a remarkable comeback until Mladen Petrić's clinically taken goal gave them too much to do with 15 minutes remaining.
"When we opened the scoring, we said to ourselves that it would be alright, that we'd done the hardest part," said Demel, "but we were up against a side playing at home, a team that plays at the business end of their league, and they showed a lot of character. We were able to react, too. Anderlecht deserved their win on the night, but I think – over the two matches – we deserved to go through."
Demel's attention now turns to Friday's quarter-final draw in which Hamburg are joined by German champions VfL Wolfsburg, but not Werder Bremen, the team that halted Hamburg's run at the semi-final stage of the UEFA Cup last season. The Ivorian international explained he and his team-mates are determined not to fall short this time round.
"We were 20 minutes away from the final last season, and we missed out, and this season the final is being played in Hamburg," the 28-year-old added. "This season has been a little bit spoiled, you could say, by our elimination from the German Cup and our league position. So for us, a Europa League final at home is a present that we can give both our supporters and the club."
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