By Fuad Krvavac at the Pecara stadium
Bosnia-Herzegovina champions NK Široki Brijeg have a slender lead to take to Azerbaijan after a 2-1 victory against PFC Neftchi in the first leg of their first qualifying round match.
Plenty at stake
William Tabi and Nikola Juricic scored for the home side but a Zaur Tagizade strike in added time has given their Azeri visitors a lifeline ahead of the return a week on Wednesday. With Russian title-holders PFC CSKA Moskva awaiting the winners, there was plenty at stake in tonight's contest at the Pecara stadium.
It was no surprise therefore that neither side created a goalscoring opportunity in a tense opening 20 minutes. It was the visitors who came up with the first real chance on goal in the 28th minute, when Tagizade escaped the attention of the home defence to shoot from 20 metres. However, Široki Brijeg goalkeeper Igor Melher did well to save.
Tagizade was in lively form and had another chance to test Melher five minutes later but again failed to find the net. Then, in the 38th minute, Mahmud Gurbanov was given a chance to try his luck with a free-kick but again Melher was in the way. It was not all one-way traffic however, with Danijel Bajkuša firing in a volley just before half-time that Neftchi goalkeeper Huseyn Mahammadov did well to stop.
At the start of the second half, Široki Brijeg did their best to raise the home support. Coach Ivo Ištuk introduced two attacking players including Juricic and was rewarded in the 69th minute when Juricic played in Cameroonian team-mate Tabi to score the opening goal. Ištuk was given further reason to cheer five minutes later when Domagoj Abramovic crossed for Jurcic to head in from six metres.
Široki Brijeg were on course for a dream result in their first-ever match in the European Champion Clubs' Cup but they could not quite hold out for a clean sheet. A minute into added time, captain Rashad Sadigov made room on the wing and crossed for the hard-working Tagizade to direct the ball into the net. The Azeri side will have every confidence they can reach the second qualifying round after next week's return in Baku.