Celtic's 1-0 defeat to Gibraltarian champions Lincoln on Tuesday was another reminder that qualifying is no cakewalk for the big teams; UEFA.com recalls some notably horror stories.
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Košice 2-1 Spartak Moskva
Spartak Moskva 0-0 Košice
1997/98 second qualifying round
Group stage regulars in the 1990s, Spartak expected an easy ride against their Slovakian opponents, but Oleg Romantsev's side got off lightly with a 2-1 first leg defeat and unexpectedly failed to make amends back in Moscow. "We had thoughts about quitting football after that Košice loss," noted midfielder Andrei Tikhonov.
Lyon 0-1 Maribor
Maribor 2-0 Lyon
1999/2000 third qualifying round
Slovenia's stock in club football was pretty low when Maribor came up against Lyon in 1999, most assuming the Purples' first-leg success in France was a fluke until Ante Simundža and Stipe Balajić scored to complete a 3-0 aggregate success. "This is the darkest page in the club's history," recalled Lyon coach Bernard Lacombe. "I do not like to speak about these two matches. Those are the worst memories of my coaching career."
Helsingborg 1-0 Internazionale
Internazionale 0-0 Helsingborg
2000/01 third qualifying round
Mikael Hansson's powerful first-leg finish and Sven Andersson's save from an Álvaro Recoba penalty sent the Swedish team through and meant an early UEFA Champions League exit for the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Laurent Blanc, Hakan Şükür and Iván Zamorano.
"It's certainly the toughest day of my career with Inter," coach Marcello Lippi said after the decider, a 2-1 loss at Reggina in the Nerazzurri's Serie A opener seven weeks later prompting him to add: "If I was the president, I would fire the coach and kick the players up the backside." Massimo Moratti sacked Lippi soon afterwards.
CSKA Moskva 1-2 Vardar
Vardar 1-1 CSKA Moskva
2003/04 second qualifying round
No Macedonian club had won an away fixture in European competition before Zoran Stratev's charges' remarkable success in Moscow, though the coach remained cautious ahead of the second leg. "We have a 55% chance of going through," he maintained. His side's nerve held as they achieved perhaps the greatest coup in their nation's post-independence footballing history.
Artmedia Bratislava 5-0 Celtic
Celtic 4-0 Artmedia Bratislava
2005/06 second qualifying round
Newly-appointed Celtic manager Gordon Strachan called the first leg of this tie "out-and-out the worst football night" of his high-profile career. Even a 4-0 return-leg victory could not erase the memory of the Slovakian club's devastating opening, which included a Juraj Halenár hat-trick. Vladimír Weiss's men kept battling, earning a group stage place by defeating Partizan in the play-offs. "We believed in our dream and now it is reality," Weiss said.
København 1-2 Ajax
Ajax 0-2 København
2006/07 third qualifying round
Beaten 2-1 at home, FCK had good reason to give up the ghost against the four-time European champions, but Michael Silberbauer's strike and a Thomas Vermaelen own goal sealed an outstanding comeback from Ståle Solbakken's team. "This is a dream come true," said chairman Flemming Østergaard. "I actually think we managed to put Ajax to sleep," added Norwegian coach Solbakken.
Ajax 0-1 Slavia Praha
Slavia Praha 2-1 Ajax
2007/08 third qualifying round
After five unsuccessful attempts, Slavia finally prised open the door to the group stage thanks to a backs-to-the-wall home victory, Stanislav Vlček scoring twice – with Luis Suárez on target for the visitors. "I only relaxed when Vlček scored the second goal," said coach Karel Jarolím. "He and the goalkeeper Martin Vaniak were largely responsible for the win. It's thanks to them we're in the Champions League."
Anorthosis Famagusta 3-0 Olympiacos
Olympiacos 1-0 Anorthosis Famagusta
2008/09 third qualifying round
"The greatest achievement in Cypriot football history" is how Nicosia-based daily Politis described Temuri Ketsbaia's Anorthosis qualifying for the group stage, a crowd of 4,000 welcoming the squad at Larnaca Airport after their progression was confirmed with a 1-0 loss in Piraeus. "For a team from a nation as small as Cyprus and with a budget as small as ours to get into the Champions League is an absolute dream," said Ketsbaia.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Timişoara
Timişoara 0-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
2009/10 third qualifying round
"We played with our soul and the fans were fantastic," said midfielder Artavazd Karamyan after Ioan Sabău's side clung on to eliminate Mircea Lucescu's UEFA Cup holders following two draws. "We have made history," said captain Dan Alexa, Lucescu adding: "Timişoara deserved to win, but they can't stop here – they should go for it." Stuttgart ended the Romanian outfit's group stage ambitions in the play-offs.
Braga 1-0 Sevilla
Sevilla 3-4 SC Braga
"It was the first time we heard the Champions League anthem and I scored the winner – what more can you ask?" beamed Brazilian striker Matheus after modest Braga defeated much-fancied Sevilla at home. Arguably better was to come, a hat-trick from substitute Lima paving the Portuguese club's way to the group stage – and ultimately on to the UEFA Europa League final, where they lost to Porto.
Dudelange 1-0 Salzburg
Salzburg 4-3 Dudelange
2012/13 second qualifying round
"It's a disaster," said Salzburg defender Martin Hinteregger, offering no excuse for his side's extraordinary away-goals defeat by the Luxembourger champions, for whom Aurélien Joachim was on target in both legs. "The 1-0 first-leg win was not a surprise to me, but the qualification was," admitted coach Dider Philippe, whose team ended the second leg with ten men. "I can only hope all the players will get time off work for the next round," added Joachim.