FC Sibir Novosibirsk enjoyed a winning debut in UEFA competition as Aleksei Medvedev's 74th-minute strike gave the Russian side a 1-0 victory against Apollon Limassol FC in their UEFA Europe League third qualifying first leg.
Captain Medvedev finished from an Igor Shevchenko cross to secure a narrow lead in the tie for Sibir, the most easterly club to appear in UEFA competition, having qualified as 2010 Russian Cup runners-up.
The Siberian team had come close to scoring after only five minutes of a match played on artificial turf of the Spartak stadium in Novosibirsk. Medvedev had a shot superbly saved by Apollon goalkeeper Aleš Chvalovsky who also thwarted defender Nikola Valentić late in the first half. In front of a sell-out 10,000 crowd, midfielder Medvedev finally claimed Sibir's reward when he touched in Shevchenko's low centre 14 minutes from time.
Sibir coach Igor Kriushenko said: "The victory is the first for Sibir in Europe, and I would like to congratulate the team and the city. I had tried to calm the players beforehand, telling them Apollon were no stronger than the teams we play in the Premier-Liga. The goal gives us some strategic advantage and it's also good we kept a clean sheet at home. We would liked have a bigger cushion but we have what we have."
Apollon coach Slobodan Krčmarević, meanwhile, expected his side to benefit from home advantage in next week's second leg on Cypriot soil. "Congratulations to Sibir," he said. "They were better than us, and also better prepared because their league is under way while this was our first game of the season. We are not used to playing on artificial turf so it was difficult. But
the result leaves things open with the tie balanced at 50-50. We have a good chance of turning it round in Cyprus where it will be a very different game. At home we will almost certainly score."
The match had kicked off in bright sunshine at 19.00 local time, five hours ahead of CET, as the first of 34 first-leg games being played tonight.
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