FC BATE Borisov are in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second time in their history thanks to a stirring away win at SK Sturm Graz.
The Belarusian champions have earned the chance to return to the stage they graced in the 2008/09 season thanks to Aleksandr Volodko's 25-metre strike nine minutes before the break, and a second-half header from Marko Simić.
The visitors were underdogs to progress after Manuel Weber scored a vital away goal in last week's 1-1 draw in Belarus, but they came out on the front foot as Vitali Rodionov fired in a shot from 20 metres in the very first minute. Andreas Hölzl responded for the home side moments later but his low shot was smothered by goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor in a lively start.
Imre Szabics looked most threatening for a Sturm side missing their top scorer Roman Kienast, who has a broken foot, and the Hungarian shot wide after ten minutes as Die Schwoazn pushed forward. The hosts' coach Franco Foda had warned his team about the danger posed by returning Brazilian midfielder Renan Bressan, who volleyed wide 20 minutes in, before fellow midfielder Volodko showed how it was done with a magnificent effort. The 25-year-old burst forward before firing an unstoppable shot past Christian Gratzei on 36 minutes.
After the break Pavel Nekhaychik shot over as BATE looked to extend their advantage before Szabics had two efforts which Belarus Under-21 goalkeeper Gutor saved well. Hölzl missed the opportunity to connect with a left-wing cross when well placed in front of the visitors' goal, but minutes later the tie was as good as over when Simić repeated his feat from last week.
Rodionov drove forward on the break and was brought down on the edge of the penalty area, enabling Dmitri Baga to whip in a cross which the 24-year-old rose to head in 20 minutes from time. Despite late efforts by Jürgen Säumel and substitute Samir Muratović, BATE held firm to book their place in the group stage.
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