Fenerbahçe SK will grace the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for the first time after Cristian's penalty right on half-time proved the difference against an FC BATE Borisov side down to ten men for 70 minutes.
The first half was bearing a remarkable resemblance to last week's 0-0 draw in Belarus as the visitors had a player sent off – Dmitri Baga this time – early on and the disjointed hosts struggled to press home the advantage. Moussa Sow eventually prised open the door, earning a spot kick that Cristian converted, and though there were some uncomfortable moments, that was enough for the Istanbul outfit.
The initial exchanges were mere skirmishes, a sharp Cristian chance aside, but the gloves were off as soon as Baga collected his second booking in four minutes for a late tackle on the excellent Salih Uçan. Aykut Kocaman's team were largely swinging and missing, however, their attempts to pierce a well-marshalled defence comfortably dealt with by back line, goalkeeper or – so awry was some of their passing – the confines of the pitch.
Occasionally the combinations worked. Pierre Webó and Sow went close with headers before the latter volleyed wastefully, but he soon made amends by drawing a foul from BATE keeper Andrei Gorbunov; Cristian drove in from the spot. The game was being played behind closed doors but the thousands of fans watching on a big screen outside the stadium made themselves heard. 'As if we were here' said a giant banner – it felt like they were.
The Yellow Canaries were not chirping so loudly seconds after the restart when Volkan Demirel was forced to tip over Filipp Rudik's effort, and their lead always looked tentative. Cristian could have made sure but fired against the bar and though BATE could not punish Fenerbahçe, last-16 opponents FC Viktoria Plzeň just might. The first leg is on 7 March, when the visitors to the Czech Republic will be without the suspended Egemen Korkmaz.
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