August 14 – Porto and Celtic were the shock losers on a dramatic night of Champions League qualifying action on Tuesday.
The Portuguese champions will be missing from the group stages for the first time in nine years after being dumped out by little-known Russian side Krasnodar.
Sérgio Conceição’s side led 1-0 after the first leg but were stunned 3-2 on home soil in the return as Krasnodar progressed to the final play-off round on away goals
It is only the second time since winning the trophy under José Mourinho in 2004 that Porto have failed to reach the Champions League group stages. Krasnodar did not even exist then – last season’s third-placed finishers in Russia were founded in 2008.
Last season’s semi-finalists Ajax were given a scare by Greek champions PAOK Salonika before squeezing through. After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, PAOK took the lead in Amsterdam through Diego Biseswar, a winger developed at Ajax’s academy, but Ajax scored two penalties on the way to a 3-2 win for a 5-4 aggregate win.
But Celtic crashed out after a humiliating 4-3 defeat home to unheralded CFR Cluj of Romania. The Scottish champions, who managed a 1-1 draw in the away leg, led 3-2 before a collapse gifted Cluj two late goals and a 5-4 aggregate win over the 1967 European champions.
Celtic have now been knocked out of the competition at the same stage in successive seasons, a huge blow to their finances as well as reputation.
“We’ve only ourselves to blame,” said crestfallen coach Neil Lennon. “If you don’t do the basics defensively well enough then at this level you get punished. We’ve let it go.”
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