The Brugge players piled on top of each other, shouting in glee after scoring their third goal in the last minute of their Champions League qualifier against FCK. The 3-2 scoreline was enough to see them through after a goalless draw in Copenhagen and the home crowd went ballistic.
But then the linesman’s arm stirred, rising steadily into the Belgian sky, flag aloft. The referee noticed, placed a whistle into his mouth and with a simple blow of air, Club Brugge’s dreams had evaporated.
Moments later, Caesar Santin sealed the Danish triumph when he rolled the ball into an empty net following Brugge’s goalkeeper going up for a desperate last-ditch corner – it was a fitting finale to a real rollercoaster of a match.
The two clubs both top their respective leagues with six points from two games, and a tactical 0-0 draw in Copenhagen a fortnight ago had promised another close battle. But FCK looked the better team in Copenhagen and were quietly confident they could get the score draw that would see them through on away goals.
But despite FCK controlling the early proceedings, it was Brugge who went ahead midway through the first half after Jordi Figueras rose to head home from a corner.
FCK equalised on the hour through a belter from their new loan signing from Bayer Leverkusen, Nicolai Jørgensen, but Brugge quickly re-established their lead when Belgian international Vadis Odjidja scored after some dubious Danish defending.
With ten minutes to go, FCK once again equalised thanks to their Costa Rican connection. Bryan Oviedo's cross was met by Christian Bolanos who calmly side-footed home. Brugge hit the post and then had that late goal disallowed before Santin ended the Belgian hopes as the final whistle blew.
As the Danish team celebrated, it must have been a sweet victory for FCK’s Belgian coach, Ariël Jacobs, who formerly coached Brugge’s big rivals, Anderlecht. There were three Danes who weren't celebrating however, as Niki Zimling, Jim Larsen and Jesper Jørgensen all ply their trade in Brugge.
FCK will now face one of five teams in the final hurdle between them and the promised land of the Champions League group stage. And it won’t be easy.
Fenerbahce, Malaga, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Lille or Udinese will be in the pot with FCK when the draw takes place on Friday, and the Danish runners-up will be an underdog regardless of the opposition.
The Danes will be guaranteed a place in the Europa League even if they lose, but the Champions League is where the real money and the coefficient points are. FCK could use the big bucks, but Denmark is desperate for the points.
With the European football season kicking off, Denmark sits in 13th place in the coefficient country standings, just behind Belgium and Turkey. FCK has helped by beating Belgian Club Brugge, but realistically overtaking Belgium this season is a mission impossible because the Belgians are defending such a meagre amount. However, Turkey are defending a veritable cricket score, and if they could draw and dispense of Fenerbahce, it would be a major boost for Denmark’s club ambitions in Europe.
But they’ll need help from the other Danish teams participating in Europe this year. Champions FC Nordsjælland will garner some points as they have already qualified for the Champions League group stage, but Aarhus GF offered no help, losing two games to a Georgian team. AC Horsens might still contribute as they take on the Swedish outfit Elfsborg tonight in a Euroropa League qualifying round in a bid to join FC Midtjylland in the next round.