The Swansea City manager, Michael Laudrup, was delighted to reach the group stages of the Europa League, despite his side ending their Group A campaign with defeat in Switzerland.
The Welsh club needed a draw to guarantee their progress to the last 32, but Kuban Krasnodar’s failure to beat Valencia in Spain ensured this defeat did not prove costly.
In sub-zero temperatures and with a low fog hindering visibility, the visitors had the better of the opening half, Roland Lamah twice going close. But they slackened off after the break and were punished when Marco Mathys found the net from close range with 10 minutes left.
It was an inauspicious way to end a group campaign that had started with a 3-0 Mestalla masterclass against Valencia, but Swansea will be in Monday’s draw along with the likes of Benfica, Ajax, Napoli and Juventus. And while the result and performance were not what he would have wanted, Laudrup was happy to have qualified.
“Being through is the most important thing,” he said. “In a couple of weeks we won’t think about how we got there. We have two months to wait before the knockout stage, and we are there because we deserve to be there. Maybe you can always take things out from these games and say we should have done more, but we are through.
“When we were 1-0 down and Kuban equalised against Valencia, for just a second their late goals against us went past my mind. When St Gallen got a last-minute free-kick – two goals in injury time could have sent us out, but fortunately it didn’t go like that.”
Kuban’s 1-1 draw in Spain means Swansea have reached the latter stages of a major European tournament for the first time in their history.
“I hope that it is huge for everybody in Swansea. We don’t know when we will play in Europe again,” Laudrup said. “Sometimes you appreciate it but maybe not enough when you are in it. Maybe you appreciate it more when you are more distant from it.
“I can only compare it with my experience at Getafe when we reached the quarter-finals. It was a nice experience at the time, but four or five years later is when they really appreciated playing Bayern Munich and Benfica.
“I hope thinking back it will be the same with Swansea, when it comes to winning the League Cup and playing in Europe.
“Now let’s see what happens in the draw. You never know, the weaker team of the two can move on if you play well,” he added.