FC Belshina Bobruisk 3-2 Portadown FC (Belshina win 3-2 on aggregate)
FC Belshina Bobruisk hung on for a place in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League after two goals from Dzianis Karolik helped see off Northern Ireland's Portadown.
The Belarussian champions were always on top in the match at the City stadium in Borisov, but had to endure a nervy finish. Leading 3-1 as the game entered its final stages, Belshina made things difficult by conceding a second goal in the 74th minute. A third goal for the visitors would have levelled the tie and sent Portadown through on away goals but Belshina survived.
Down and out
Early on it seemed like it would be a comfortable night for Belshina. After a goalless first leg last week, they were ahead after just five minutes tonight when Valeri Stripekis scored following a pass from Karolik. A second goal came 17 minutes later when Karolik found the net for the first time in the match and Portadown were seemingly down and out.
Plenty of hope
However, the visitors pulled one back just before the interval through Gary Hamilton and went in at the break with plenty of hope. Belshina appeared to have put paid to that optimism with a third goal just nine minutes after the restart, Karolik's second goal capping a splendid night's work from the 23-year-old striker.
Portadown refused to lie down, however, and when Dean Fitzgerald cut the deficit to just one in the 74th minute, the game was finely balanced again. Yet Belshina managed to protect their slender lead and now go on to meet Israeli side Maccabi Haifa in the second qualifying round.
As in this tie, Belshina will have to travel for the first leg on 31 July, with the Israeli champions making the trip to Belarus for the return a week later on 7 August.
"I am not satisfied with my team," said Portadown manager Ronnie McFall, after the defeat. "Our defenders were off form today." Belshina coach Vjacheslav Aksshaev was also unhappy with his men, whom he considered nervous and guilty of conceding sloppy goals. Instead he complimented the Irish team on their approach to the game. "I liked their tactics," he said. "They played much better than in the first match."