Portadown FC 0-0 FC Belshina Bobruisk
FC Belshina Bobruisk have promised to go for goals in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie in Belarus after a creditable scoreless draw against Northern Irish champions Portadown FC.
The wonder of this entertaining game at Shamrock Park is that it finished scoreless despite both sides having plenty of chances, especially in an open first half. Portadown will rue their luck after a shot from skipper Vinny Arkins struck the post in the 34th minute, although home goalkeeper Mickey Keenan was a contender for man of the match as the 46-year-old producing a number of good saves.
Belshina coach Vyacheslav Akshaev believed his side's chances of progressing were "50-50" but promised that "at home we will be more active, more aggressive". Portadown manager Ronnie McFall said: "It's nil each so if we score a goal they have to score twice to go through," he said.
'Deserved to win'
"I'm not delighted with the result but I'm obviously delighted with the performance," McFall added. "I thought over the 90 minutes we deserved to win, I felt it was a bit of an injustice that we didn't. We've only had one pre-season game so the fitness level of our players was very good."
The game began brightly, Dzianis Karolik forcing a fourth-minute save from Keenan, but Portadown then enjoyed a good spell. Dean Fitzgerald and Paul McAreavey sent shots wide before visiting keeper Siarhei Sinitsyn made a sprawling save to deny home captain Arkins from close range. His strike partner Gary Hamilton unable to turn the loose ball in.
The lively Valery Strypeikis struck a low shot straight at Keenan on the quarter hour but at the other end Richard Clarke failed to test the keeper when his shot flew just over. The visitors then took charge of the game for a time, Keenan only saving at the second attempt from a fiercely-struck 35-metre free-kick by centre-back Eduard Baltrushevich, before Neil Ogden made a great tackle to rob the ball off Strypeikis as he was bearing down on goal. Central midfield player Ihar Trukhau then clipped a free-kick just over before seeing Keenan tip his rising effort over the bar.
Failed to clear
It was Portadown, though, who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute. The visiting defence failed to clear a Kyle Neill free kick and Arkins sent an instinctive looping effort against the far post, Fitzgerald heading across the face of goal with right wing-back Peter McCann unable to reach the ball.
The second 45 minutes were much more cagey and 20 minutes elapsed before Fitzgerald acrobatically volleyed the first chance of the half just wide from a right-wing cross by Neill. The visitors finished the game strongly, Baltrushevich forcing a brilliant save from Keenan when the keeper tipped over a trademark long distance free-kick from the big defender and then held a low effort from Strypeikis.