Ariël Jacobs said his RSC Anderlecht side "deserved" their qualification after they pipped AEK Athens FC to the last 32 on head-to-head record with a 2-0 last-day defeat of HNK Hajduk Split.
Article top media content
When RSC Anderlecht lost their opening two UEFA Europa League group phase matches their prospects looked bleak, but they made it to the round of 32 regardless after a 2-0 defeat of HNK Hajduk Split saw them pip AEK Athens FC to Group G second place.
Until Thursday night, Anderlecht's only points had come with a win and draw against AEK, and they proved vital as Anderlecht's victory - secured by Tom De Sutter's 12th-minute opener and Matías Suárez's strike late in the first half - proved enough to finish second on head-to-head record in front of AEK, who were beaten 3-0 at home by FC Zenit St Petersburg.
"I am delighted with this victory, and it was a deserved victory," Anderlecht coach Ariël Jacobs said. "From the start of the match we were really good, but you need that goal to take the pressure off. After De Sutter made it 1-0 we managed to do that. Our qualification in second place is deserved. We took four points out of six against AEK, it would have been a real shame to have finished behind them."
Unseeded Anderlecht will be at home in the last-32 first leg on 17 February and away a week later but Jacobs does not mind who they face. "What do I hope for in the draw?" he said. "We cannot be too picky about it; we could just as easily have been out now. After the disappointment of not qualifying for the Champions League group stage, getting through the winter in the Europa League was the most important thing for us."
Captain Mbark Boussoufa agreed with his coach, although he is hoping for a glamour tie in the next stage. "We have shown that we really were eager to qualify," he said. "It was a narrow escape, but we still managed to get through. Sometimes things can run strangely, as I hear AEK missed a penalty and Zenit scored straight after that. No I am hoping for big-name opponents."