On an emotional night in Athens Sevilla overcame AEK 4-1 to reach the group stage of the Champions League.
Sevilla, which captured the last two UEFA Cups, won the first leg 2-0 and advanced on total goals 6-1. They joins FC Steaua, Arsenal and Slavia Prague in Group H of the Champions League. AEK will compete in the UEFA Cup against Salzburg.
The game originally was scheduled for last week but was postponed when midfielder Antonio Puerta died on August 28. AEK also had requested a postponement because of wildfires in southern Greece that had killed 65 people and caused a national state of emergency.
Before Monday’s game, about 50,000 AEK fans clapped when a video tribute to Puerta was played at Olympic Stadium. Players observed a minute’s silence for Puerta and the Greek fire victimss.
“We thank AEK for that initiative. They showed they are a great club,” Sevilla’s Ramos said. “I also offer our condolences to the families of the victims of the fires.”
“AEK pressured us early on, looking for a fast goal, and that invited us to play fast and dangerous counterattacks. We had the chance to get the lead with [Aleksandr] Kerzhakov early on. After our goal, AEK neglected their defence a bit and we managed to score two more goals.
“In the second half, both teams played beautiful football which I am sure the fans enjoyed. Sevilla needed to make this step forward, after two seasons spent in the UEFA Cup and with excellent results.
“From now on, we will start focusing on our new adventure and we are optimistic that we can be successful in the group we find ourselves in. However, it’s our first time among the ‘big’ clubs and we come across some classic names of the UEFA Champions League, such as Arsenal [FC] and [FC] Steaua Bucure?ti.
“There is no such thing as an easy game in this competition and we promise that we will fight. We want to thank AEK Athens for all their support on the issue of Antonio Puerta – they are a club of gentlemen. We also want to convey our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of the forest fires in Greece.”