By Yuri Bakerenko
Reaching the group round will allow BATE to challenge the most reputable European clubs. Just one obstacle stands in the way of the players and time will show whether they’ll succeed. Fans would assert that the squad is more than ready, boasting good pre-season training and a favourable set of transfers. Experts note that, this year, BATE has its strongest line-up to date; unarguably, Northern Irish Linfield and Lithuanian Ekranas appeared as inexperienced newcomers next to the Belarusian veterans. Nevertheless, several moments made fans nervous. During the return game against Lithuania, the Borisov team had a smaller number of footballers, and their 2:1 lead was threatened. If Ekranas had managed a draw, BATE would have lost its place in the Champions League for the next year (taking into account the no-score draw of the away match). BATE really needed to beat its rivals to ensure its place.
Luckily, even with an incomplete team, our footballers kept control, luring their guests into their territory and then attacking at close range. The strategy worked well towards the end of the match, with the help of Mikhail Gordeichuk, who scored BATE’s 100th European tournament goal. “Looking at both matches overall, our victory is in no doubt. Despite having lost one player at the end of the first period, we managed to avoid any dangerous moments near our net and quickly counter-attacked, using one opportunity in particular. I believe we deserve our place in the second round,” asserts the head coach of the Borisov team, Victor Goncharenko.
BATE fullback Yegor Filipenko was hot on the trail after the return match. He tells us, “Our guests’ standards were most dangerous. We were forewarned but still incurred penalties near our nets. The Lithuanians only benefitted once from this and would only have been able to defeat us had we dropped down to seven players.”
In the European arena, BATE has won six games in a row. We hope this chain of success gains more links. At the start of the Champions League play-off round, BATE Borisov is to play Austrian Sturm — following the results of a draw hosted by Swiss Nyon. Belarus’ champion will play its first match at home, in Borisov.
Last season, Sturm became Austria’s football champion, for the first time after a 12 year break.