“It’s a great event, amazing,” said coach Paolo Amodio last night as he struggled to take in his Progrès Niederkorn side’s achievement in eliminating Glasgow giants Rangers. “I cannot believe that we won 2-0 against Rangers. It’s not possible. We made history and I can’t believe it. It’s incredible.”
Trailing 1-0 from last week – and having never won a European game in 13 previous attempts, scoring just once in those matches – the side that finished fourth in the 2016/17 Luxembourg first division won out through an Emmanuel Françoise goal and a Sébastian Thill free-kick that crept into the net. Was it the best club result in the history of Luxembourg? UEFA.com recalls the other big ones.
The European breakthrough
Haka Valkeakoski 4-1 Jeunesse Esch
Jeunesse Esch 4-0 Haka Valkeakoski
1963/64 European Champion Clubs’ Cup preliminary round
Luxembourg’s clubs had some extraordinary near misses in the frontier days of European club football; Spora Luxembourg took Borussia Dortmund to a replay in the preliminary round of the 1956/57 European Cup, and Jeunesse Esch gave IFK Göteborg a similar scare in 1958/59. Little was expected of Felice Dekyulo’s side following a 4-1 first-leg mauling in this 1963 tie, but Marcel Theis built on his strike in Finland, scoring Jeunesse’s first and last at the Stade de la Frontière as ‘Bianconeri’ became the first Luxembourger side to win a European tie in spectacular fashion.
Pride before a fall
Red Boys Differdange 0-0 Ajax
Ajax 14-0 Red Boys Differdange
1984/85 UEFA Cup first round
Despite having Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman in the starting line-up, Ajax were held by Albert Adams’ Red Boys side. Humiliated in the media after the first leg, they savaged their guests in Amsterdam. Red Boys player Fabrizio Bei – now president of FC Differdange 03 – admitted that a few of his team-mates had let their hair down a little too far on the eve of the game. They paid for it. “Ajax did not want to stop,” he told UEFA.com. “I still remember, after they made it ten, 11 and then 12-0, they kept running to get the ball out of the net. Thankfully, they blew the final whistle eventually.”
Dudelange have now won 13 national league titles – all since 2000 – but first made an impact in Europe with this tie. Trailing 1-0 from the home leg, they were all but out when Thomas Gruszczynski levelled the aggregate scores deep into added time in Mostar. Their hosts capitulated in extra time, Dudelange becoming the first Luxembourger side since Jeunesse in 1963 to make it through a round in UEFA’s top club competition. “The country needed a win to restore confidence,” said Dudelange coach Michel Leflochmoan, whose side had to rush straight from the pitch to the airport to fly home after the game.
“The 1-0 first-leg win was not a surprise to me, but the qualification was,” reflected Dudelange coach Didier Philippe after a second leg of which club president Romain Schumacher concluded: “I’ve aged ten years just like that this evening.” Aurélien Joachim scored the first-leg winner, and struck again as his side built up a 3-2 lead in Austria, before Sofia Benzouien was sent off with 16 minutes to go. Roger Schmidt’s Salzburg roared back into contention, scoring twice, but could not overturn the away goals advantage. “It’s a disaster,” concluded defender Martin Hinteregger.
Assistant coach Emilio Lobo admitted that FCD03’s scouting of Utrecht ahead of this epic victory has included “a look around on YouTube” for videos of the Dutch side, but it seemed to work, Omar Er Rafik scoring twice at home, and again away as his side earned an extraordinary success. Jacob Mulenga, who scored all four of Utrecht’s goals in the tie, was gracious in defeat: “For me, these guys are not amateurs – I am happy for them.” Er Rafik is now the top scorer in the history of UEFA Europa League qualifying with 15 goals.