Qarabağ FK's 2-1 home victory against FC Salzburg was one of the stand-out results in this week's UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first legs, particularly as Gurban Gurbanov's side finished the match with nine men.
In recognition of the Azerbaijani outfit's triumph over the Austrian title holders – their third win in as many European games this season following 1-0 and 4-0 successes against Valletta FC – UEFA.com asked our man in the former Soviet republic to tell us more about the Horsemen.
Founded in 1950, Qarabağ officially represent the city of Agdam but have been based in Baku since the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 1993. This is reflected in one of their nicknames, Qaçqın Klub, which means Refugees' Club in Azeri. However, a more common sobriquet is Atlılar (Horsemen) in reference to the two Karabakh horses on the club's crest.
Qarabağ – who play their home games at Tofig Bahramov Republican stadium – have won the Azerbaijani Premier League twice, in 1993 and 2014, and the domestic cup on three occasions, in 1993, 2006 and 2009. In the 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup they became the first Azerbaijani team to win away from home in European competition when they defeated Maccabi Haifa FC 2-1.
Gurbanov, despite possessing little coaching experience and being only 36, took the reins in August 2008. Under the former Azerbaijan striker's guidance, Qarabağ have become European regulars. They have reached the UEFA Europa League play-offs three times, losing to Eintracht Frankfurt (2013/14), Borussia Dortmund (2010/11) and FC Twente (2009/10). The 42-year-old is only the second man after Arif Asadov to have won the Azerbaijani title as a player and coach. "
Qarabağ are like a family where one is for all and all for one," he told UEFA.com in June.
As Salzburg coach Adi Hütter remarked, Qarabağ strive to play attractive football and are not reliant on one player. The side has a strong Brazilian accent, with winger Danilo Leandro Dias – who scored the opening goal on Wednesday − attacking midfielder Chumbinho, anchorman Richard Almeida and forward Reynaldo vital components. Former RSC Anderlecht player Reynaldo was sent off two minutes after registering what proved to be the winner and will be missed in Austria next week. The composure exuded by Azerbaijan captain Rashad F. Sadygov should also not be overlooked.
Also known as Qafqazın Barselonası (Barcelona of The Caucasus), Qarabağ strive to mimic the Catalan giants' approach to the game. Their play is characterised by an abundance of short passes, long periods of build-up and by players interchanging positions in a 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or 4-6-0 system with no out-and-out striker. Though Gurbanov's charges tend to attack down the wings, they seldom cross the ball into the penalty area.
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