There’s wish to play well, but not everyone is able to do this
Belarusian clubs begin Euro journeys, enjoying various results in their first play-off matches — for the Champions League and UEFA Cup
By Dmitry Baranovsky
Belarusian club BATE was the first to kick off. Belarus’ champion, once again trying to get through to the Champions’ League Group Stage, faced modest Macedonian Vardar. In previous years, the Borisov players could have easily defeated the squad.
However, this time, several major BATE footballers, including Renan Bressan, were absent, having been called onto the Belarusian Olympic team to play in London. It was no easy task for the Belarusians to make their first step in the Group Stage, even at home, without their major force. By the 62nd minute, the guests had scored twice, with no sign that BATE would manage even a draw. However, Vitaly Rodionov saved the day, sending two goals into the net (using extra-time). Our squad remains in with a chance of reaching the next stage, although it won’t be easy for them to repeat the situation in Macedonia, where the return game will be hosted.
Novopolotsk Naftan and Soligorsk Shakhtyor were playing their matches in the Europa League at almost the same time, but faced different classes of rival. Shakhtyor had little opposition from Austrian Rid (managing a 1:1 draw) while the Novopolotsk club fought Crvena Zvezda, from Belgrade. By the end of the first half, the Serbs had scored three goals; Naftan seemed doomed but entered the second half positively, closing the gap to 2:3 by the 67th minute. A third goal was scored in the following minute but was, disappointingly, disallowed by the referee. Within another 60 seconds, Kasalica had sent a fourth ball into our net, despite Naftan fighting to the bitter end. They now go to Belgrade with little hope of beating this strong team.
Gomel’s start in the Europa League was quite successful, easily defeating Vikingur of the Faroe Islands. Macedonian Renova proved a stronger team but Gomel still managed a 2:0 victory, in their away game; this gives the squad every chance of reaching the third stage, where they will face mighty British Liverpool — the five-time winner of the European Champions Cup and English champion 18 times.
The potential rivals of the other Belarusian clubs have also been announced: Novopolotsk Naftan could play Cyprus’ Omonia, while Soligorsk Shakhtyor is set to face the winning team between Metalurgs (from Liepaja, Latvia) and Legia (from Warsaw, Poland)