Having scored the first hat-trick of the new European season for FC Dnepr Mogilev, forward Vladimir Yurchenko's loan move back to his hometown club seems to be paying off.
The 21-year-old struck the Belarusian side's second, fourth and sixth goals in a 7-1 demolition of Albania's KS Laçi in a UEFA Europa League first qualifying round decider last Thursday, despite playing in an unfamiliar position. "This match was great for everyone: the players, coaches and supporters," he told UEFA.com.
"The way Laçi played suited us so we enjoyed the game," he added. "I thought we would win 3-1 or maybe 2-1, but not 7-1. As for my goals, I liked the second most, because I haven't scored from a direct free-kick before. I'm happy with my performance, although I was playing in an unusual role as an attacking central midfielder."
A move back to his home town, a steel-making powerhouse in eastern Belarus, might not have been regarded as a step forward for the Under-21 international Yurchenko. Having started his career at FC Dinamo Minsk he made a step up to the Russian Premier-Liga with FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast before, with first-team football proving hard to come by, he was loaned to Dnepr this season.
"Mogilev is my home city, so I feel more comfortable playing here," said the striker. "I already knew some team-mates like Aleksandr Bychenok and Denis Obrazov. I also get match practice on a regular basis." That experience clearly paid off against Laçi, with victory setting Dnepr up for a second qualifying round meeting with Norwegian side Stabæk IF.
Yurchenko is certain that further European feats could have more benefits for his own career. "The fact that Dnepr are playing in Europe is a crucial factor," he said. "It's an excellent opportunity for Under-21 coach Georgi Kondratyev to see me in action, and senior national-team coach
Bernd Stange has also told me he'll be keeping an eye on me."
European success has also come as a relief following a disappointing start in the league, with Dnepr seventh in the 12-team Belarusian table. Coach Andrey Skorobogatko said of the Laçi game: "It was a while since I have enjoyed a football match so much. The last two weeks were tense: we were working with almost no rest and were a bit tired – that's why the first ten minutes of the game were edgy. That's understandable, because there was a massive crowd by local standards.
It's a pity we scored so many goals. We should have saved some for Stabæk!"
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