FC Copenhagen, Levski Sofia in Champions League

August 23, 2006

LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - FC Copenhagen pulled off the shock of the night when they sent four-times European champions Ajax Amsterdam tumbling out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Danish champions qualified for the lucrative group stage for the first time after coming back from 2-1 down on aggregate to win 2-0 on the night in Amsterdam with an effort from Michael Silberbauer and an own goal by Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Copenhagen will take their place in Thursday's draw in Monaco for the group stage along with the other 10 qualifiers from Wednesday's matches.

They include Levski Sofia, who became the first Bulgarian side to reach the competition proper after a 2-2 draw with Chievo Verona in Italy gave them a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Arsenal, last season's runners-up, also made it through after a scrappy 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb in their first European tie at their new Emirates Stadium.

Although they went into the game 3-0 up from the first leg, Arsenal started poorly and fell behind to a 12th-minute goal from Eduardo.

But they marked the occasion with a victory thanks to two late goals from Fredrik Ljungberg (77th) and Mathieu Flamini (90th).

AEK Athens also capitalised on an away victory in the first leg when they swamped Heart of Midlothian 3-0 for a 5-1 aggregate victory.

Hearts finished the match with nine men after Julien Brellier and Neil McCann were red-carded.

Steaua Bucharest, European champions 20 years ago, ended a decade out of the group phase with a 2-1 win over Standard Liege of Belgium for a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Five teams, including former European champions Benfica, AC Milan, Hamburg SV and Liverpool, qualified for the group stage on Tuesday.