By Yuri Karpenko
Favourite BATE Borisov was closer to claiming victory in the first match of the third Champions League qualification round, held in Lithuanian Panevezys, but failed to make the most of some ‘juicy’ opportunities near goal. Lithuanian Ekranas showed stronger defence than attack, keeping their rival away from their own goal during both halves.
During the 58th minute, Serbian halfback Marko Andelkovic was sent off after tripping BATE’s Pavel Nekhaichik and BATE attempted to use the advantage of numbers to enter their opponent’s half of the field. Ekranas strengthened its defence even more in response. Victor Goncharenko’s trainees created a series of dangerous moments that, alas, did not lead to goals. Renan Bressan failed to turn an aggressive attack into a result, while BATE captain Dmitry Likhtarovich’s powerful kick missed the net. Spartak’s former forward Artem Kontsevoy, playing for BATE, had the last chance for a long-awaited goal; sadly, his beautiful kick in the 86th minute hit the bar.
If the two matches between the seven-time Belarusian champion and five-time Lithuanian champion can result in a Belarusian victory, our fans will be able to enjoy another autumn of European football matches. BATE can yet secure a minimum performance in the group stage of the second most important European tournament — the Europa League. To repeat its 2008/2009 success, when BATE reached the group stage of the Champions League and was able to invite European footballing legends Real Madrid and Juventus Torino to Minsk, they must defeat Lithuanian Ekranas at home and pass through the next qualification round.