AUXERRE, France, Nov 3 (Reuters) - AJ Auxerre, pride
restored, can even dream of the unlikeliest of Champions League
knockout qualifications after nicking a 2-1 win over Ajax
Amsterdam on Wednesday.
The French Ligue 1 side, who had lost their first three
games in a competition that looked too big for them, still lie
bottom of Group G but they now trail second-placed AC Milan,
whom they host in three weeks, by only two points.
Steeven Langil's strike six minutes from time settled it
after Toby Alderweireld had levelled Frederic Sammaritano's
early goal for the French.
Substitute Langil caught the Ajax defence napping when he
collected a quickly played Kamel Chafni free kick before coolly
slotting home at the packed Abbe Deschamps stadium.
The result leaves Auxerre on three points, one behind the
Dutch and seven adrift of runaway group leaders Real Madrid who
have already qualified courtesy of their 2-2 draw with Milan.
"It is good for our pride," Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez
told French TV channel Canal Plus.
"Now we will play Milan with more confidence as we're also
on a good run in the league.
"We had played well in our first three games in the
competition but we were not lucky enough. Tonight, we were."
Ajax made a good start when Urby Emanuelson's shot whizzed
just over the bar in the seventh minute but it was Auxerre who
scored first through Sammaritano, who joined the club late in
the August transfer window from Ligue 2 side Vannes.
Julien Quercia chested the ball into his path and Sammaritano
volleyed home from just outside the box in the ninth minute.
Ajax piled on the pressure and Luis Suarez moved from the
left to the right flank, causing huge trouble for the Auxerre
He came very close six minutes before the interval but after
dribbling past a couple of Auxerre players, the Uruguay
striker's angled shot shaved Olivier Sorin's right post as
Auxerre hung on to their slim advantage.
Ajax, however, hit back with 11 minutes left when
Alderweireld headed home from a corner but Langil, who came on
as a 63rd minute substitute, took advantage of a lapse in
concentration to give Auxerre all three points.
"It was well deserved, especially after we played actually
pretty well in our first three games but did not get a point,"
captain Benoit Pedretti told Canal Plus.
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