Should AS La Jeunesse d'Esch overturn a 1-0 deficit to AIK in the deciding leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie on Wednesday they will not only banish a hoodoo which has stood for 46 years, but also break new ground for football in Luxembourg.
Jeunesse d'Esch have not won a two-legged UEFA tie in 26 UEFA club competition campaigns since they defeated FC Haka 5-4 on aggregate in the preliminary round of the 1963/64 European Champion Clubs' Cup. Their latest tilt at European progress also began with a defeat, but a 1-0 loss in Stockholm was a decent result for Jacques Muller's team, with the manner in which they stifled the Swedish titleholders giving Muller a feeling that this could be the year when their luck changes.
"We played a good game, not only tactically because we also physically matched our opponents and made our own chances," said Muller, who frustrated AIK with a 4-5-1 formation. "Should we play in a similar way in the return then we ought to be able to get ourselves through."
Should they manage that, Jeunesse d'Esch would become the first side from the Grand Duchy to reach the third qualifying of Europe's premier club competition. Before they can dream of that, however, Muller's men must cancel out Pontus Engblom's goal, scored after a defensive slip by Thomas Fullenwarth.
"I didn't make the mistake because I was nervous or anything; it was simply a technical error, the sort of thing you see all the time," said Fullenwarth. Eager to make amends in the second leg, the 23-year-old will have been lifted by the support of his coach, who said: "I can't be too harsh on Thomas. It was just a lapse of concentration; it can happen. We certainly won't be stoning him."
Fullenwarth added: "We have to approach the game exactly as we did in the first leg. Until we made an error it was going fine. If it looks like we might be able to force Solna further back into their own half then we will try to do it."
The midfielder is certainly confident of doing just that at Jeunesse d'Esch's compact Stade de la Frontière. "Our pitch in Esch is a little bit smaller," he said. "They will have less space to move the ball about. If we keep closing the ball down, give them no room to use their pace and skill, while making full use of counterattacks and set pieces, then anything is possible."
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