Esbjerg qualify for Europa League knockout stage

Mick Van Buren’s goal 20 minutes from time was enough to see Esbjerg advance to the latter stages of a European competition for the first time in their history

Esbjerg’s fairytale run in the Europa League will continue into next year after the club beat Swedish outfit Elfsborg 1-0 on Thursday night to qualify for the knockout stages.

Dutch substitute Mick Van Buren ‘s toe-poke with 20 minutes left on the clock secured the three points, and with Standard Liege losing 1-3 at home to Salzburg in the other Group C game, Esbjerg can finish no lower than second in the group with two rounds of games remaining.

Esbjerg were not given much of a chance of qualifying for the group stage this summer, let alone reach the knockout stage, and their mesmerising run has captivated football fans throughout Denmark.

Massive for the city
But after a shock win against French club St Etienne to reach the group stage, Esbjerg have continued to surprise, beating Belgian giants Standard Liege away and Elfsborg twice to finish in the top two.

Left back Jonas Knudsen is well aware of how much the success means to a club that was relegated and on the brink of financial ruin a few years ago.

“It’s fantastic. I have been in the club for many years and played for them in the first division, which was not fun at all," Knudsen told "So what’s happened in such a short period of time is absolutely massive. We made history with the Danish cup win last season and now we are doing it in Europa League.”

Don't want to go East
Games against Salzburg (home) and Stardard Liege (away) still remain, but Esbjerg are gleefully anticipating who might come out of the hat in the draw on December 16 in Turin.

“I would like to draw a team that we have a chance against and I think that it will be possible,” Coach Nils Frederiksen told “I want to avoid eastern Europe and it would be great to meet Dortmund, who I watched lose to Arsenal in the Champions League the other day.”