As Rosenborg BK close on a place in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, no one will be looking forward to kick off against FC Astana more than winger Abdoulrazak Traoré.
The match will close a chapter on a difficult period for the 18-year-old Ivorian who was robbed at gun point by four men in Abidjan when he returned home over the summer. Traoré was knocked to the ground by the thieves, and struggled with headaches for two weeks afterwards. Now back to his best, the teenager is keen to help his side see off the Kazakh title-holders.
'Good to be back'
"I had a large sum of money and a mobile phone on me," recalls Traoré, who joined Rosenborg from Casablanca side Raja Club Athletic earlier this year. "That possibly saved my life. If I had had nothing on me, I think they might have shot me." Traoré returned to the team for Saturday's league match against Stabæk IF which Rosenborg won 3-0 to stay in the hunt for the Norwegian title and has now set his sights on Europe. "I feel good about being back, and hope to contribute to us reaching the Champions League."
Before missing out last season, Rosenborg had been regulars in the competition, featuring in ten of the previous eleven group stages. Astana now stand between them and a third qualifying round tie against Finnish champions Tampere United. Though Rosenborg boast a comfortable 3-1 lead ahead of tonight's return leg at Lerkendal, assistant coach Knut Henriksen has been telling his side the job is not yet done.
"I've told them we were lucky to get such a good result in the first leg. Astana outplayed us for large periods, and for once we were very effective in front of goal," Henriksen said. "I also reminded them about what happened to FC København three years ago. They beat Slovenian side NK Gorica 2-1 in the away leg of their second qualifying tie in the Champions League and all their supporters were talking about potential opponents in the next round. They were then beaten 5-0 at home and were knocked out of Europe."
Yssouf Koné scored twice for Rosenborg in the first leg and Steffen Iversen once, but both are doubts for tonight. Iversen's chances of playing are rated as 50/50 as he recovers from a cold, while Koné is struggling with a knee problem. Didier Konan Ya, who has been a huge success both in midfield and attack since joining Rosenborg during the winter, is out with malaria.
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