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Football: UEFA rejects Legia Warsaw appeal over Champions League

Celtic held on to their controversial Champions League berth on Thursday (Aug 14), as UEFA rejected an appeal from Legia Warsaw over their dramatic exit from the competition.

GENEVA: Celtic held on to their controversial Champions League berth on Thursday (Aug 14), as UEFA rejected an appeal from Legia Warsaw over their dramatic exit from the competition.

European football's governing body said its appeals panel had upheld a decision handed down last Friday.

Legia had mauled Scottish giants Celtic 4-1 in the first leg of their third qualifying round in Warsaw, and beaten them 2-0 in the second leg. But the Poles were booted out of the competition by UEFA for fielding an ineligible player in Edinburgh.

As a result, the match was declared a 3-0 forfeit, transforming the aggregate score from 6-1 to 4-4. Under UEFA's away goals rule, that gave Celtic the edge because they had scored in Warsaw.

The sanction was related to Legia's decision to play defender Bartosz Bereszynski. Bereszynski, who was only on the pitch for four minutes at the end of the second leg, had been sent off in Legia's concluding Europa League match last season. He was suspended for violent conduct for the club's two matches against Ireland's St Patrick's in the second qualifying round and also missed the first-leg victory over Celtic.

But it then emerged that Bereszynski had not been registered in Legia's squad for the second qualifying round, meaning the matches did not count towards his suspension.

Legia argued that there had been a huge misunderstanding, and that applying the letter of the law was harsh and unsporting. As well as appealing to UEFA, they had also called on Celtic to do what Legia said was the decent thing and step aside.

Celtic have gained from a UEFA sanction before. During the 2011-12 Europa League group stages, they kept their berth despite a qualifying defeat by Switzerland's FC Sion, who were thrown out for fielding five ineligible players.

In last Friday's draw for the Champions League play-offs, Celtic found themselves pitted against Slovenian champions Maribor.

Legia, meanwhile, dropped into the Europa League, where they were matched with Kazakh side FC Aktobe. Having had their Champions League hopes dashed, they will now have extra motivation for Europa League success, given that this season's final is in Warsaw in May 2015.

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