The first match, held in Belfast, finished with a draw — 1:1. A score draw at home would have been sufficient to send Borisov through to the next round. However, after the first game against the semi-professional club from Northern Ireland, Belarusian fans were expecting a confident win from their favourite yellow and blue team.
The first half of the match in Borisov was characterised by cautious play, although the home team was dissatisfied with their lack of goals. Linfield deliberately focused on counter-attack while BATE also played carefully, especially near their goal. The match was rather dull until the second half; only two dangerous moments were created around Linfield’s goal.
In the second half, the Borisov players began to behave more aggressively, with Artem Kontsevoy bursting into the penalty area in the 58th minute. He hit the bar but Pavel Nekhaichik knocked the ball back in with his head. Three minutes later, Alexander Pavlov broke the rival’s defence in the centre to score at short range, bringing the score to 2:0. BATE managed to hold on to its position for the rest of the match, remaining closer to its third goal, than Linfield to its first.
“There was some nervousness in the team during training for the match. The result of the away match was good, but the quality of our game left much to be desired. Accordingly, we were anxious throughout the first half — until Pavel Nekhaichik scored. We then relaxed, playing more diversely, although cautiously near our goal. Having worked on our mistakes from the first match, we deserved to reach the next round,” noted BATE head coach Victor Goncharenko at the after-match press conference.
Linfield coach David Jeffrey stressed, “BATE is a very technical squad, good at keeping possession of the ball and delivering a pass. I’d like to wish BATE success in the next round; we’ll be rooting for them. I believe that we bit off more than we could chew today.”
Lithuanian Ekranas Panevezys will be BATE Borisov’s rival in the next stage of the tournament. It defeated Valletta of Malta 4:2 away and 1:0 at home.