Celtic have been handed a Champions League reprieve after Legia Warsaw were punished for fielding an ineligible player in their 6-1 aggregate win over the Scottish champions in the third qualifying round.
Bartosz Bereszynski, who came on as an 86th-minute substitute as Legia won the second leg 2-0 at Murrayfield on Wednesday night, was suspended following a red card for violent conduct in last season’s Europa League.
Hours before the draw for the next round was to be made, UEFA announced that Celtic had been awarded a 3-0 win in the second leg, and therefore qualified on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate result.
Celtic now go on to face Slovenian champions Maribor in the final play-off round.
“Legia have been sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player (article 18 of the UEFA Champions League regulations and article 21 of the Disciplinary Regulations). The match has been declared as forfeit meaning Legia Warszawa have lost the match 3-0,” a UEFA statement said.
“As a consequence, Celtic have qualified for the UEFA Champions League play-offs on away goals (agg: 4-4) and Legia will compete in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
“In addition the player Bartosz Bereszynski has been suspended for one additional UEFA competition match for which he would be otherwise eligible. This suspension shall be added to the remaining two match suspension which the player still has to serve in accordance with the Control and Disciplinary Body decision of 13 February 2014.”
Bereszynski was sent off against Apollon in the final match of Legia’s Europa League campaign last season, earning a three-match suspension. He missed both legs of Legia’s tie against St Patrick’s in the second qualifying round and also sat out the 4-1 first-leg victory over Celtic.
However, it has emerged that Bereszynski had not been registered in Legia’s squad for the second qualifying round, and so the matches did not count towards his suspension.
Legia Warsaw have five days within which to lodge an appeal, and a statement on the Polish’s club website indicated they had requested UEFA’s reasoning for the ruling before making a decision.
Celtic benefited from an ineligibility ruling during the 2011-12 season when they were reinstated into the Europa League group stage despite a qualifying defeat by Sion.
The Swiss side were ruled to have fielded five ineligible players after breaching a FIFA transfer ban and failed to reverse the decision during a lengthy legal battle.
Legia chairman Dariusz Mioduski vowed to challenge UEFA’s decision.
He wrote on Twitter: “Today, the sport lost behind closed doors. We made a mistake, sorry, but the penalty is disproportionate. Stay with us. We fight on.”