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Dawda Bah's Helsinki face Lithuanian side in Champions League

Jun 22, 2010, 1:24 PM | Article By: Sainabou Kujabi

Finish champions HJK Helsinki have been drawn with FK Ekranas of Lithuania, in the second qualifying round of the Uefa Champions League.

HJK coach Antti Muurinen is the only coach to have led a Finnish team to the UEFA Champions League group stage, after taking them there 12 years ago.

Now back at the helm of the club, he is aiming to repeat the feat which will give chance to the Gambian international Dawda Bah to play at Europe's most competitive league championship.

Muurinen is one of Finland's most heralded coaches. The 56-year-old was in charge of the national team from 2000 to 2005, and has twice led both FC Kuusysi and HJK to the Finnish title. One of his greatest achievements, however, is guiding HJK to the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League group stage.

"We had a great team back then and our confidence was really high," recalls Muurinen, who returned to HJK in 2007. "We thought no challenge was too great. It really was a dream come true."

HJK overcame FC Yerevan and FC Metz in qualifying that year to reach the group stage. There, a side boasting Shefki Kuqi, Hannu Tihinen, a 17-year-old Mikael Forssell and Aki Riihilahti acquitted themselves well against former European champions PSV Eindhoven, and then German titleholders, FC Kaiserslautern.

HJK now at 21 points drew with Inter Turku goaless in Sunday?s local league clash to reduce their lead to 4 points, ahead of Demba Savages FC Honka who lost 2-0 to Tampere United.

HJK will open their campaign with matches over two legs, to be played during the week of13/14 July and 20/21 July, respectively.

Linfield, from Northern Ireland, will face Norwegian side Rosenborg in the same round.

Celtic and Ajax started in the third qualifying round, while Tottenham entered in the final play-off round before the competition proper begins.

England's three other representatives - Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal - and Scottish champions Rangers will enter the competition at the group stage.

The final of the 2010-11 Champions League will take place at Wembley Stadium.