BERNE: Arsenal teetered on the brink of elimination before coming from behind to win 2-1 at Udinese and qualify for the Champions League for the 14th season in a row.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Arsenal trailed 1-0 at halftime and survived an Antonio di Natale penalty miss with the score at 1-1 before Theo Walcott scored to lift the pressure.
Benfica, Lyon also qualify
Twice former European champions Benfica joined them with a 3-1 win over Twente Enschede and Olympique Lyon made it 12 appearances in a row by holding out for a 1-1 draw at Rubin Kazan in the playoff second legs. Czech champions Viktoria Plzen qualified for the first time, beating FC Copenhagen 2-1, and BATE Borisov completed the line-up by knocking out Sturm Graz.
The five completed the line-up for Thursday's group stage draw in Monaco.
Relief for Wenger
Arsenal's 3-1 aggregate win was a relief for manager Arsene Wenger after an extremely difficult start to the season, with injuries adding to the departures of superstars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
"It is relief and pride as well," he told ITV. "We had our backs to the wall but there was only one team on the pitch in the second half. We showed great belief in the way we want to play football. It was very important, not for financial reasons as many people have been saying, but more because we want to play at the top level."
Fenerbahce appeal CL ban
Meanwhile, Turkish league winners Fenerbahce appealed against being banned from Europe's top club football competition over a match-fixing probe.
The Istanbul club's lawyer Haluk Burcuoglu told reporters he had lodged an appeal with the arbitration committee of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). The federation banned Fenerbahce from entering the Champions League due to the ongoing probe targeting various Turkish clubs, and replaced it in the tournament with league runners-up Trabzonspor.
"This decision has nothing to do with justice," said Burcuoglu. "The TFF does not have the authority to exclude a club from the Champions League."
Last month, some 30 people were charged and jailed pending trial in a probe into alleged match-fixing and bribery in Turkey's first and second divisions last season. Among them is the president of Fenerbahce, Aziz Yildirim.
The Uefa emergency panel said Trabzonspor would in turn be replaced in the Europa League by their opponents in the play-off, Athletic Bilbao.
The draw for the Champions League main round took place yesterday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.
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