FC BATE Borisov have become the first Belarussian side to qualify for the UEFA Champions League proper after drawing 1-1 with PFC Levski Sofia to advance 2-1 on aggregate.
BATE were reduced to ten men following the 43rd-minute dismissal of Gennadi Bliznyuk but held on to secure their place in the lucrative group stage. In an eventful first half Sergei Sosnovski opened the scoring for the hosts after 14 minutes, doubling BATE's lead following their 1-0 victory in Bulgaria a fortnight ago, and though Vladimir Gadjev equalised seven minutes before half-time, Levski were unable to press home their numerical advantage.
BATE had begun their quest in the first qualifying round, seeing off Valur Reykjavík then RSC Anderlecht to set up this third qualifying round meeting with Levski. BATE's first-leg success in Sofia came as a surprise but they quickly built on that platform at the Gradski stadium. Though the visitors enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, the home team struck first against the run of play when Sosnovski pounced on an error by Levski goalkeeper Daniel Kiss to head in Igor Stasevich's cross.
The goal knocked Levski out of their stride yet they recovered sufficiently to draw level in the 38th minute. BATE were unable to clear a centre from the right and when the ball fell to Gadjev on the edge of the area he fired a fierce shot beyond 19-year-old goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor and into the roof of the net. Five minutes later BATE's woes were compounded by the dismissal of Bliznyuk who was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Kiss. Despite their numerical superiority, however, Levski struggled to create clear chances after the interval, leaving the capacity 6,000 crowd to celebrate at the final whistle.
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