Qarabag FK have become the first ever Azerbaijani side to reach the Champions League Group Stage after overcoming 12-time Danish champions FC København in a tense clash.
The now Baku based minnows had taken a one-goal advantage with them to Denmark after winning the home leg in Azerbaijan 1-0 courtesy of a Mahir Madatov strike. The 20-year-old winger who has one international cap, scored in the 25th minute of the first leg in what will forever be written in the club’s history book.
The media and bookmakers alike predicted that the away leg would be a step to far for the Azerbaijanis and it looked to be the case when they fell behind shortly before half-time after Paraguayan Federico Santander netted from a free kick that was curled in from the left.
Qarabag almost levelled the game with a header in the 55th minute before South African international striker Dino Ndlovu did just that when he equalised in the 63rd minute, squeezing the ball past Robin Olsen in the København goal.
The home team did regain the lead just three minutes later through a Andrija Pavlovic header, but the Azerbaijanis held on for a historic 2-2 away goals victory that sparked wild celebrations on the pitch and in the away end of the Parken Stadium.
It was perhaps the happiest moment in the history of the club and Azeri football as a whole but it has been a long road for the club since it was exiled from their home city of Agdam in 1993 due to a six-year bloody war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The club was originally formed in 1951 in the city of Agdam in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the country. The region which is officially in Azerbaijan is a disputed territory and was the scene of a bloody conflict which left the city a decimated ghost town. Head Coach Allahverdi Bagirov who was also an Azerbaijani officer during his time at the club died in the conflict which is estimated to have claimed around 40,000 lives.
Since the club’s displacement in 1993, they have been playing their home matches at the National Stadium in Baku and under the leadership of former international striker Gurban Gurbanov, have become one of the most successful teams in the country.
Since taking over in 2008, Gurbanov has lead the club to four Premier League titles and four Azerbaijani Cups. Seven of those eight wins have come since the 2013-14 season which highlights just how dominant they have become in domestic football.
With the draw for the Champions League group stage taking place later today, all eyes will be on the Azerbaijanis who could be drawn against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United.
Most fans and pundits alike will not give them a chance but none of the European giants will fancy an away trip to Baku in the winter months where temperatures frequently drop below freezing.
Could Qarabag make further history with more giant killing exploits?
Time will tell, but whatever happens during the group stage, the club and Azerbaijanis around the world will surely savour every moment of it.