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UEFA Champions League Stanimir Stoilov revels in historic Astana triumph

Stanimir Stoilov lauded his players as Astana became the first Kazakh team to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

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Stanimir Stoilov lauded his players as Astana became the first Kazakh team to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Astana claimed an historic 2-1 aggregate win over APOEL after Nemanja Maksimovic equalised in the 84th minute to secure a dramatic 1-1 draw in the return leg of their play-off on Wednesday.

Extra time looked a real possibility when Semir Stilic levelled the tie midway through the second half but Maksimovic, who helped Serbia to U20 World Cup glory earlier this year, had other ideas with six minutes remaining in Cyprus.

Speaking afterwards, an ecstatic Stoilov said via UEFA's official website: "This is a very big win for Astana and for all football fans in Kazakhstan. We are all celebrating and there is a feeling of great joy.

"I have to be first to congratulate my players for this great achievement as well as our fans, my coaching staff and everyone associated with the club.

"This achievement caps off a great effort from my players. We will try and do our best in the group stage and I think we can get some points. But it will be difficult.

"We will enjoy the experience and we are certainly looking forward to it."

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