FC BATE Borisov's dream of becoming the first club from Belarus to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage remains alive after Gennadi Bliznyuk struck three minutes into added time to leave their tie against FC Steaua Bucuresti level at 2-2 going into the return in Romania in two weeks.
Playing among such revered company for the first time, BATE had to overcome early nerves during a first half in which defender Artyom Radkov fired them into a 43rd-minute lead. Yet with Steaua having won all five of their competitive matches this season going into this third qualifying round first leg at the Gradski Stadium, one goal was never going to be enough. So it proved as Dorin Goian (58) and Nicolae Dică (84) found the net for Gheorghe Hagi's visitors before Bliznyuk's late strike.
Group-stage contenders last term, Steaua were quick to make their experience tell in Borisov and Adrian Neaga would have opened the scoring on nine minutes had home goalkeeper Aleksandr Fedorovich not produced a terrific save to deny the forward. Twins Dmitri and Pavel Platonov grew in confidence as BATE settled, and captain Aleksandr Ermakovich volleyed just over before Fedorovich frustrated Dică from another set-piece. The next dead ball was to prove decisive, though: Igor Stasevich curling a free-kick into the box where Radkov reacted to make it 1-0 to BATE.
Chances were at a premium early in the second half, and it took a set-piece headed in by Goian for Steaua to strike as the hour approached. Suddenly the visitors were more urgent, and Bănel Nicoliţă hit a post before Fedorovich tipped away a goal-bound effort from Dică. The Romanian international was not to be denied with six minutes to go, however, as he whipped in a fine free-kick – but neither were BATE. Bliznyuk profited from yet another precise Stasevich set-piece to send the locals home happy.