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Soudani fires ten-man Dinamo past Skënderbeu

Dinamo Zagreb 4-1 Skënderbeu (agg: 6-2)
El Arabi Hilal Soudani struck twice in Zagreb as Dinamo made the group stage for the first time since 2012/13 despite being a man down.

Dinamo celebrate progress to the group stage for the first time since 2012/13
Dinamo celebrate progress to the group stage for the first time since 2012/13 ©AFP/Getty Images
  • El Arabi Hilal Soudani nods hosts in front; Esquerdinha fires in equaliser 60 seconds later
  • Armin Hodžić restores Dinamo lead; Gonçalo Santos sent off after restart
  • Second-half Jérémy Taravel strike and Soudani's second wrap up victory
  • Croatian champions reach group stage for first time since 2012/13
  • Group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday at 17.45CET

El Arabi Hilal Soudani registered twice as Dinamo Zagreb reached the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time since 2012/13 after an impressive home success over Skënderbeu secured a 6-2 aggregate play-off victory, despite the hosts playing almost the entire second half with ten men in Croatia.

Skënderbeu's Esquerdinha had equalised on the night 60 seconds after the hosts broke the deadlock via El Soudani's header, yet Armin Hodžić restored the Croatian champions' lead as a frantic opening produced three goals in 15 minutes. Jérémy Taravel and another from Soudani then sealed an impressive win after Gonçalo Santos was dismissed.

Josip Pivarić and Soudani – on target in Dinamo's 2-1 first-leg triumph – combined for the opener as the Blues struck inside ten minutes. Pivarić was allowed time and space on the left to pick out Soudani at the far post and the Algerian nodded his side in front. However, within seconds of the breakthrough Esquerdinha restored parity. Although home custodian Eduardo thwarted Gerhard Progni, Esquerdinha converted the rebound into an empty net. Five minutes later, Zoran Mamić's men regained the initiative courtesy of Hodžić’s left-foot volley into the bottom corner. Despite the setback, Mirel Josa's team almost conjured another reply as Marko Radaš's free-kick rattled the woodwork.

Jérémy Taravel celebrates his 55th-minute strike
Jérémy Taravel celebrates his 55th-minute strike©Getty Images

Soudani tested goalkeeper Orges Shehi from distance on two further occasions as the Albanian champions got little respite from their Croatian counterparts in Zagreb. The visitors were given a glimmer of hope after the restart, though, when Santos was sent off for two bookable offences.

Yet it was the numerically disadvantaged hosts who scored next when Taravel rifled in from close range after the White and Reds failed to clear a Dinamo corner. Skënderbeu's hopes flatlined completely ten minutes from time as Mamić's charges rubber-stamped a group stage berth, Soudani finding the net for the third time in the tie with a clinical finish.

Zoran Mamić, Dinamo coach
I have to congratulate my team on a fantastic performance and a fantastic result. I am very happy and very emotional. This is a big victory for us. The team reacted well; even after we conceded a goal, we were concentrated and focused. We showed our strength and quality. When we went down to ten men, many thoughts crossed my mind, but I wasn't too worried. I stayed positive. And we played really well and deserved to qualify for the Champions League group stage.

Mirel Josa, Skënderbeu coach
Dinamo Zagreb are a quality team, they deserve to go through and I think they can do some good things in the next phase. We wanted to reach the group stage, but I am sorry we didn't do more in these two matches. I was hoping we would be dangerous, competitive and a threat to them, but we weren't. We had our moments and when you don't take a chance from those moments, your opponents will. That's what happened. 

Dinamo's Leonardo Sigali (left) and Bernard Berisha of Skënderbeu
Dinamo's Leonardo Sigali (left) and Bernard Berisha of Skënderbeu©Getty Images
Armin Hodžić celebrates with the Dinamo bench
Armin Hodžić celebrates with the Dinamo bench©Getty Images
Dinamo Zagreb players celebrate at the final whistle
Dinamo Zagreb players celebrate at the final whistle©AFP/Getty Images