FK Vardar coach Ilco Gjorgioski believes his side are yet to reach their peak as they bid to overturn a 3-2 first-leg deficit against FC BATE Borisov on Wednesday.
A 33,000 sell-out crowd is expected at the National Arena Filip II Macedonian for Vardar's first UEFA Champions League game on home soil in nine years, but they have work to do to reach the next round after conceding twice in added time to surrender the initiative in Belarus. "The game in Borisov showed us that we must keep our concentration until the final whistle," said Gjorgioski. "My main goal now is to focus the players' minds, but I know that my players are professionals who will recover from the setback and give it their all."
The 41-year-old coach took charge last summer and led Vardar to a record sixth title. Now Gjorgioski has his sights set on Vardar becoming the first Macedonian side to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage. The Red and Blacks came close in 2003/04 but, having knocked out Barry Town AFC and PFC CSKA Moskva, were eliminated 5-4 on aggregate by AC Sparta Praha in the third qualifying round.
"We've a great chance to get a result which will take us into the next round," added Gjorgioski, who lost to BATE coach Victor Goncharenko twice during his spell in charge of FK Makedonija GP Skopje. "I am sure that this time we will be the side celebrating at the end. The psychological advantage will be with BATE and we're going to be under pressure, but I'm convinced that my players can deal with the challenge. We have our own strengths and our best is yet to come."
Forward Ostoja Stjepanovic, who set up Jovan Kostovski for Vardar's equaliser and scored their second goal in the first leg, echoed his coach's thoughts and is optimistic that his side will progress. "We shouldn't waste our time lamenting the lost opportunity in the first game," he said. "Now we have the challenge of an even more difficult game, but I believe we will go through to the next round."
Vardar spokesman Riste Vlahov told UEFA.com that their supporters will enjoy the occasion as they bid to reach the third qualifying round, where either KS Skënderbeu or Debreceni VSC lie in wait. "It's going to be a spectacular night for the fans," he said. "We're all going to feel the magic of the Champions League."
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