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"We are from a small village, a small club from the Czech Republic, and for us it's a fantastic result," said FC Slovan Liberec captain Radoslav Kováč after their 2-1 win at Estoril Praia took them into the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
Slovan's campaign began in the second qualifying round on 18 July and after finishing runners-up in Group H thanks to goals from Josef Šural and Michael Rabušic, despite Sebá pulling one back, coach Jaroslav Šilhavý said his team were "tactically perfect". Estoril's debut European campaign was over before the game, but the Portuguese outfit's coach Marco Silva and goalkeeper Ricardo Ribeiro enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
Jaroslav Šilhavý, Slovan coach
It was an enormous pleasure to win tonight and to qualify for the next stage of the Europa League. This is a great opportunity for the team and for the club and it was a surprise for us and for Czech football. Tonight we were very organised and tactically perfect. Our opponents faced many difficulties to overcome us as we were intelligent enough to score when it was needed.
We have faced many big European teams – it was a dream we can carry on now. I told the players not to pay attention to the other game [if SC Freiburg had beaten Sevilla FC, Liberec could not have gone through] as I wanted them to focus on our task. Of course, when Estoril scored I feared that things could go wrong for us, but then Sevilla made it 2-0 and we were more comfortable by then. This is a great feat for us and for this team because we have played 12 matches in the competition this year, losing only two.
Radoslav Kováč, Liberec captain
We feel fantastic. We are from a small village, a small club from the Czech Republic, and for us it's a fantastic result. To go through is absolutely amazing. We played very well in defence in all our European games, very solid, and we were also very quick on the counterattack.
It was a very tough group. We drew twice against Sevilla, it was perfect, but what was very important for us was our home game against Estoril – we beat them 2-1. In the last game against Freiburg [a 2-1 home loss] we were very tired, but we had ten days off to come here so it was perfect. We only knew at half-time that it was close, but after the game there was an explosion [of joy] after we discovered Sevilla's result.
Now it's going to be difficult, but we are not thinking about the next stage yet. For us it's great. We'll fight and see who comes [in the draw], but this step is amazing for Czech football as well.
Marco Silva, Estoril coach
We had a good campaign in the competition, but we could have got more points. The team was growing through the group stage, but today we were penalised by the way we conceded the goals. Overall I am very satisfied with the players as this was a debut for many of them and for the club. We ended up being punished for some mistakes, but we learned something from them.
We were a praised team and I am proud. We lost the chance to qualify in the home match against Freiburg [a 0-0 draw on 7 November], where we were much better. Today we dominated, but we did not have so many chances. However, we did not embarrass ourselves as I feel we are growing as a team. The club must create a solid base so that we can participate every year in European competition.
Ricardo Ribeiro, Estoril goalkeeper
It was not the debut I dreamed of after an injury of to my colleague [Vagner], but football is like this and I grabbed the opportunity. We are out of the Europa League, but we are still in three competitions in Portugal. This was not the debut we hoped for in the competition, but we knew it was going to be complicated as we were facing very strong teams. However, we were good as a team despite the results not being the best. We had some bad luck in a few matches. Now we should raise our heads so that we can quality again for European competition next season.
Sebá, Estoril forward
The team was very good throughout the competition. We played well, but unfortunately we were not able to win any matches. We are in a good position in the Portuguese league [fourth], so we will try to end up in a good spot to repeat this experience next season.
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