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Classic UEFA Champions League play-offs

From stirring comebacks to late goals and a defender saving penalties, the UEFA Champions League play-off round has produced some unforgettable contests since 2009/10.

Ludogorets celebrate their remarkable play-off win against Steaua
Ludogorets celebrate their remarkable play-off win against Steaua ©Getty Images

Bremen 3-1 Sampdoria
Sampdoria 3-2 Bremen (aet; agg: 4-5)
Bremen looked to be home and dry after building a 3-0 first-leg lead against ten-man Sampdoria, but their celebrations were dampened by a late Giampaolo Pazzini strike. The German side's job was not finished yet, and so it proved as Sampdoria roared back with three goals in the return, Antonio Cassano's 85th-minute effort seemingly settling the tie – only for Markus Rosenberg to pounce on 93 minutes, before Claudio Pizarro had the final say in extra time.

Braga 1-0 Sevilla
Sevilla 3-4 Braga (agg: 3-5)
Lima was the hero for Braga in a pulsating contest that booked the Portuguese club their maiden group stage place. Matheus fired Braga ahead in the opening leg and doubled their lead in Spain, before Lima came on and quickly grabbed his first. Luís Fabiano and Jesús Navas levelled the scores on the night, but Lima was not done yet, registering two more goals to render Frédéric Kanouté's added-time strike immaterial.

Arsenal 1-0 Udinese
Udinese 1-2 Arsenal (agg: 1-3)
The Gunners were indebted to a penalty save from Wojciech Szczęsny as they reached the group stage for a 14th consecutive season, the Poland goalkeeper denying Antonio Di Natale at 1-1 in the return as Udinese were beginning to look rampant. Spared, Arsenal struck again through Theo Walcott, who had got the ball rolling with an early goal in the first leg.

Ideye Brown had the final say for Kyiv
Ideye Brown had the final say for Kyiv©Getty Images

Mönchengladbach 1-3 Dynamo Kyiv
Dynamo Kyiv 1-2 Mönchengladbach (agg: 4-3)
Beaten 3-1 at home, Mönchengladbach looked to have no route back as they targeted a first ever spot in the group stage. They did eventually fall short, but not without a sterling effort in Ukraine, a Yevhen Khacheridi own goal and Juan Arango strike putting them within sight of a famous comeback late on. It was not to be, Ideye Brown finally killing off their hopes with two minutes remaining.

Celtic got the better of Shakhter in 2013
Celtic got the better of Shakhter in 2013©Getty Images

Shakhter 2-0 Celtic
Celtic 3-0 Shakhter (agg: 3-2)
"That was the greatest thing I've ever done in football," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon after James Forrest's added-time goal capped a stirring fightback. Trailing 2-0 after their trip to Kazakhstan, Lennon's side were still heading out when the return leg remained 0-0 as half-time approached, but Kris Commons speared in a superb effort before the break and Giorgos Samaras wiped out the deficit after it. Forrest then ensured it was Celtic's night.

Schalke were sternly tested by PAOK
Schalke were sternly tested by PAOK©Getty Images

Schalke 1-1 PAOK
PAOK 2-3 Schalke (agg: 3-4)
Schalke had to dig deep to deny PAOK a historic first group stage campaign after losing Jermaine Jones to a 64th-minute red card during the second leg in Salonika. With the scoreline 1-1 on the night and 2-2 overall, the Greek hopefuls sensed the tie was theirs for the taking, only to be swiftly undone by a fine Julian Draxler strike. Although Kostas Katsouranis responded, Ádám Szalai brought the visitors joy and relief.

Cosmin Moţi was the star for Ludogorets
Cosmin Moţi was the star for Ludogorets©Meridian Match

Steaua 1-0 Ludogorets
Ludogorets 1-0 Steaua (agg: 1-1; 6-5 on pens)
Ludogorets fans will never forget the night they clinched a maiden berth in the competition proper amid fairy-tale drama. Wanderson kept their dream alive with a 90th-minute volley that ensured extra time, but it was centre-back Cosmin Moţi who emerged as the true hero, taking over in goal after keeper Vladislav Stoyanov had been dismissed with no substitutions remaining. Not only did Moţi save two spot kicks in the shoot-out, he also scored the first of the session himself.

Highlights: six stunning play-off goals
Highlights: six stunning play-off goals