Legia 1-1 Dundalk (agg: 3-1)
The Polish side survived a stunning Dundalk goal and the sending-off of Adam Hloušek to reach the group stage for the second time in their history.
Article top media content
- In their centenary year, Legia qualify for second time and first since 1995/96
- Michał Kucharczyk settles nerves with counterattack goal in stoppage time
- Robert Benson powers Dundalk in front before Legia are reduced to ten men
- Group stage draw streamed live on UEFA.com from 18:00CET on Thursday
- Key player: Michał Kucharczyk (Legia)
- Watch highlights in the player above
Legia Warszawa survived an early thunderbolt from Dundalk's Robert Benson, and the later sending-off of forward Adam Hloušek, to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the second time in their history.
Despite the cushion of a 2-0 play-off first-leg victory in Ireland, and the fact tonight was exactly 21 years to the day since the Polish club's first qualification for the competition proper, it was anything but a straightforward evening for Besnik Hasi's Ekstraklasa title holders. However, a stoppage-time counterattack goal by Michał Kucharczyk finally rubber-stamped their group place to break the visitors' resistance.
Dundalk's positive start had culminated in a sensational 19th-minute goal for Stephen Kenny's team. When David McMillan nodded Sean Gannon's cross into his path, midfielder Benson slammed in a shot that not even the great Jan Tomaszewski – watching at the Stadion Wojska Polskiego – could have saved.
Legia continued to labour in the second half, a scenario further complicated by Hloušek's second yellow card on 67 minutes. However, despite Dundalk's brave efforts to conjure a second goal, the hosts scraped home, their progress confirmed by Kucharczyk's 92nd-minute clincher.
On the 21st anniversary of their qualifying success over IFK Göteborg, and in what is their centenary year, Legia made it back to the promised land of the UEFA Champions League.
Legia's fans wondered which Legia would turn up, particularly with their side lying 12th in Poland after a 3-1 weekend home defeat by Arka Gdynia. It is fair to say they weren't resting on their laurels, even after last week's victory in Dublin. And again, neither the result nor the performance from Legia were convincing, yet they were enough to fulfil the dream of a UEFA Champions League return.
Stars' uncertain future
Warsaw fans speak a lot about the future of forward Nemanja Nikolić, Ekstraklasa top scorer last term, and centre-back Michał Pazdan, impressive for Poland at the EURO. The hope now is that, with UEFA Champions League football on offer, Legia can convince them to stay.
The Polish game has waited two decades for this moment. Legia qualified for the first time in 1995/96, Widzew Łódź replicated that feat 12 months later, but since then no group stage representation. Even decent sides like Wisła Kraków couldn't quite overcome that last hurdle. Now, though, with Legia finally squeezing through, new horizons are opening up at last.