FC Steaua Bucure?ti progressed to the UEFA Champions League play-offs after they held FC Dinamo Tbilisi 1-1 at home to complete a 3-1 aggregate success in the third qualifying round, uefa.com reports.
Laurentiu Reghecampf’s side took an early lead through defender Iasmin Latovlevici and, despite Ustaritz’s equaliser on the night, they never looked in great danger of surrendering their overall advantage. The Georgian champions pressed forward in the second half but were unable to reel in a determined Steaua team.
It did not take the hosts long to hit their stride at the National Arena, Latovlevici opening the scoring following a delightful pass from influential Steaua captain Alexandru Bourceanu on six minutes.
Dinamo had goalkeeper Giorgi Loria to thank for keeping the score at 1-0; the 27-year-old saved brilliantly from Cristian Tanase before denying Federico Piovaccari with an even more spectacular stop just before half-time.
Dusan Uhrin Jr’s men had chances of their own in that first period but had to wait until the 48th minute for the equaliser. Just moments after home custodian Ciprian Tatarusanu had foiled Jaba Dvali, Xisco’s corner was met by fellow Spaniard Ustaritz, who guided a firm header into the net.
That would be the end of the scoring, though, as Steaua shut up shop to see out the tie. The Romanian title holders now turn their attentions to Friday’s play-off draw, where they will find out who stands between them and a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Steaua will receive from UEFA the sum of EUR 2.1 M for managing to qualify for the Champions League play-off. If it loses the fixture Steaua will enter the Europa League groups, which would mean another bonus of EUR 1.3 M. Thus, at this point Steaua has secured a minimum of EUR 3.4 M plus the money it will obtain from broadcasting rights and the sale of tickets. If it wins the play-off then Steaua will receive an extra EUR 8.6 M for managing to qualify for the Champions League groups.
Considering that the top seeds are Basel, Celtic Glasgow, Steaua, Apoel Nicosia and Viktoria Plzen, Steaua Bucharest could meet one of the following teams in the play-off: Ludgoret Razgrad (Bulgaria), NK Maribor (Slovenia), Shakhtar Karagandy (Kazakhstan), the winner of the game that pits Austria Vienna (Austria) against Hafnarfjardur (Iceland) (Austria 1 – Hafnarfjardur 0 in the first leg), or the winner of the game that pits Legia Warsaw (Poland) against Molde (Norway) (Molde 1 – Legia 1 in the first leg).