Lifelong Legia Warszawa fan Michał Kucharczyk’s face was a picture of ecstasy after he scored the goal that made absolutely sure of the Polish champions place in the group stage.
Dundalk provided an almighty scare before Kucharczyk settled the play-off late on, sparking joy on the pitch and in the stands. Exactly 21 years to the day after booking their first UEFA Champions League campaign, Legia were finally back for a second.
“It’s fantastic feeling. I have had lot of great moments in my career, but I have no doubt that this is the most unforgettable,” the winger, 25, told UEFA.com after a 1-1 draw sealed a 3-1 aggregate victory.
“I didn’t expect such difficult game against Dundalk. We had great result after the first match, a two-goal advantage, but somehow we started badly here in Warsaw and were quickly punished. They really surprised us with a goal and in the second half things went even worse as we were reduced to ten men.
“But at the same time it helped us, too: it was like a cold shower to wake Legia up. We managed to calm down and I was lucky to score a late goal. Maybe it was not decisive, but it helped us through so I am delighted.”
Warsaw-born Kucharczyk was just four when Legia last graced the UEFA Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals, and has never enjoyed the thrill of seeing them on Europe’s biggest club stage. Now he will experience it at first hand!
Michał Kucharczyk scores
“I will be playing against the greatest teams in Europe; that will take a while to sink in. I cannot pick a team I would like to face in the group stage, nor any favourite player – there are so many great guys in this competition. I am eager to face them all.
Legia are the first Polish team to reach the UEFA Champions League since Widzew Łódź in 1996/97, but six games into the new season there are 11 teams above them in the Ekstraklasa. “We have lost too many points,” Kucharczyk said.
“I hope this victory and the fact that we’re in the Champions League will energise us for the league games. It is going to be exciting autumn!