Salzburg beats Sevilla, reaches last 16 in CL for 1st time
SALZBURG, Austria (AP) — For the first time in Champions League history, there will be an Austrian club playing in the knockout stage.
Salzburg achieved that feat after defeating 10-man Sevilla 1-0 to secure second place in Group G on Wednesday.
Noah Okafor scored a 50th-minute winner for the hosts, who also would have advanced with a draw in the home match played without fans in Salzburg.
There were loud celebrations by the players and coaches after the final whistle.
“I really don’t care about our opponent in the round of 16,” the 21-year-old Okafor said. “Right now, I just want to enjoy the moment with the team.”
Salzburg finished with 10 points, one behind group winner Lille, which defeated last-place Wolfsburg in the other match.
All four teams arrived to the final round with a chance to advance, but only the win would have been enough for Sevilla, which ended with six points and a Europa League spot.
“It was a messy game, like all our group games,” Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said. “Football is about details and even more so at this level. If you don’t take your chances and your opponent does, it clearly becomes harder to achieve your goal.”
Sevilla and Salzburg had tied 1-1 in Spain in a match that featured four penalty kicks, a Champions League record.
Sevilla was denied by the woodwork early in the second half, then a few minutes later Okafor scored and the visitors’ hopes dwindled for good after Joan Jordán was sent off with a second yellow card in the 65th.
Okafor’s winner came from close range after a low left-flank cross by Karim Adeyemi.
The last Austrian team in the last 16 of the Champions League was Sturm Graz in 2000-01, when that round was a second group stage, not a knockout round. Other Austrian teams played in the knockout rounds in the European Cup era.
Sevilla had been unbeaten in nine away games in the Champions League. This was the Spanish club’s fifth group-stage appearance in seven seasons, and it had failed to advance to the knockout stage only once.
Salzburg made its third straight group-stage appearance, and fourth overall. It finished third in its group in the previous two seasons.
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