Sneijder goal puts Ajax in Champions League

May 3, 2006

AMSTERDAM, May 3 (Reuters) - A late strike from Wesley Sneijder on Wednesday secured Ajax Amsterdam a place in next season's Champions League third qualifying round.

Despite losing the second leg of the Dutch playoff final 2-1 to Groningen, Ajax booked their place in Europe's premier club competition with a 3-2 aggregate win thanks to Sneijder's goal two minutes from time.

Groningen erased the 2-0 first-leg deficit with goals from Norwegian Erik Nevland and Bruno Silva.

After Nourdin Boukhari and Angelos Charisteas wasted their chances to put Ajax ahead on aggregate, substitute Sneijder sealed the tie for his side with a fierce shot from 17 metres.

Groningen qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time since 1992.

'It was a tough for match for us and Groningen deserves respect for their achievement tonight,' said Ajax coach Danny Blind.

'They never let us in the match and only after 70 minutes it became obvious that they lost some power.

'There is no reason for celebration because we still got nothing. The third qualifying round is also a tough job.'

Elsewhere, Heerenveen thrashed Twente Enschede 5-0 and 6-0 on aggregate to clinch the final UEFA Cup berth.

Paul Bosvelt opened the scoring for Heerenveen after 10 minutes with a long distance strike, while Danijel Pranjic and Lasse Nilsson both scored twice.