August 1, 2018 / 9:58 PM / 20 days ago

Three former European champions progress in qualifiers

ZURICH (Reuters) - Former European champions Red Star Belgrade, Ajax Amsterdam and Celtic all made it comfortably through to the third qualifying round of the Champions League on Wednesday after surviving away legs.

Yet FC Basel, group stage regulars in the last few seasons, were knocked out after a humiliating 3-0 home defeat by PAOK which came less than one week after they sacked coach Raphael Wicky.

Veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored twice while Dusan Tadic was also on target in a 3-1 win for Ajax away to Austria’s Sturm Graz in their second round, second leg tie. Their 5-1 aggregate win earned them a meeting with Standard Liege.

The only unhappy note for the four-times European champions was an embarrassing own goal by goalkeeper Andre Onana who failed to control a back pass and instead deflected the ball into the net in the 89th minute.

Breakaway goals by El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and Nemanja Radonjic in the first half gave Red Star a 2-0 win away to Lithuanian champions Suduva Marijampole as the Serbs completed a 5-0 aggregate win. They face Slovakia’s Spartak Trnava in the next round.

Meanwhile, a goalless draw away to Norway’s Rosenborg was enough for Scottish champions Celtic, who qualified thanks to their 3-1 win in the home leg last week and will meet AEK Athens.

Basel, who beat Manchester United on the way to reaching the round of 16 last season, never recovered after leaving Fernando Varela unmarked to score from a corner in the seventh minute at home to PAOK.

The Swiss were caught again seven minutes into the second half when Aleksandar Prijovic was sent clear by a long goal kick and lobbed the ball home.

Omar El Kaddouri curled in the third for the Greeks from the edge of the penalty area on the hour.

Azeri champions Qarabag, who made their group stage debut last season, beat Albanians Kukes 3-0 with two penalties converted by Spaniard Dani Quintana and a late goal from Dzon Delarge.

The visitors had defender Albi Alla sent off early in the second half for giving away another penalty which was missed by Innocent Emeghara.

Malmo, runners-up in 1979, went through with a 1-1 draw at home to CFR Cluj after Arnor Ingvi Traustason scored early in the second half to cancel out Damjan Djokovic’s opener for the Romanians. The Swedes won 2-1 on aggregate.

BATE Borisov, Belarus champions for the last 12 seasons, went through thanks to a 2-1 win at HJK Helsinki after a 0-0 draw in the first leg, while Kazakh champions Astana and Hungary’s Vidi also qualified.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis

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