By Manfred Christoph in the Stade de la Frontière
Luxembourg's AS Jeunesse Esch threatened to make "the impossible possible" in the words of their German coach Roger Lutz, before being forced to settle for a 1-0 win that saw them eliminated from the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round by Moldovan side FC Sheriff.
Wagner calls tune
The match started at a frenetic pace. Jeunesse Esch's Jean Wagner had the game's first chance after just three minutes when the defender headed skipper Manuel Cardoni's corner past the far post. A minute later the visitors, who won the first leg 2-0, retaliated when Sergiy Kuznetsov failed to hit the target after a fine cross from right-winger Victor Barisev.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure, but were constantly thwarted by Sheriff goalkeeper Sebastian Hutan. Gordon Braun had a gilt-edged opportunity after controlling a long pass from Sacha Schneider but as he prepared to shoot Hutan took the ball off the striker's toes.
The Sheriff team looked more technically gifted, but it was Roger Lutz's battling midfield that was dictating play and on 28 minutes Schneider hit the crossbar with a powerful long-range shot after Bernhard Heinz's centre.
Kuznetsov had another good chance but again missed from close range after latching on to a long throw-in. On the stroke of half-time, Jeunesse Esch were awarded some respite and a free-kick just outside the Sheriff box, but Cardoni was again denied by the excellent Hutan.
The game continued to ebb and flow at the start of the second half. Joe Flick was called into action at one end while his Moldovan counterpart Hutan continued to deny the desperate Jeunesse Esch attack. Two minutes after Hutan saved Heinz's close-range effort on 54 minutes he also repelled a Schneider penalty after Braun had been fouled by Iurie Priganuc.
Just as Jeunesse Esch heads were beginning to drop, Cardoni had another free-kick chance which bounced over the despairing Hutan and into the net after appearing to bobble. However, before the hosts could begin to dream of another goal to take the tie into extra time, Leonid Kouchouk's side bombarded them with scoring opportunities, but they were unable to capitalise.
Flick's excellent reflexes prevented Sheriff from salvaging a draw after a determined shot by Teimuraz Burnadze. Jeunesse Esch immediately launched a counterattack but Paolo Amodio's header went narrowly wide and Sheriff held on to secure a second qualifying round tie against Norwegian side Rosenborg BK.
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