Georgia emerged from the opening night of UEFA Europa League fixtures with quite some credit after FC Dinamo Tbilisi and Metalurgi Rustavi took wins into next week's second legs.
Metalurgi earned a 1-0 first qualifying round victory away to an FC Banants side boasting plenty of experience in European competition. "We looked the stronger team before half-time," said Metalurgi keeper Zurab Batiashvili. "
We were inspired by the support from the Georgian fans who had travelled to Yerevan. We tried to keep the ball and control the game and we succeeded."
Irakli Kobalia, 19, scored the only goal three minutes after the interval in the Armenian capital – only to be shown a second yellow card for a rather over-zealous celebration. "Kobalia was a victim of inexperience," explained Batiashvili.
Back in the 2005/06 season, another Georgian team, FC Lokomotivi Tbilisi, beat Banants 3-2 in Yerevan only to lose the tie after a 2-0 defeat back in Georgia. Batiashvili is confident of avoiding a repeat scenario. "We have the better chance of going through and our motivation is also greater, but we recognise that the return leg will be difficult," the 31-year-old said. "However, I don't think we'll see a rerun of the Lokomotivi story."
The only club involved on opening night to have landed a major European prize, 1980/81 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners Dinamo Tbilisi, triumphed 2-0 at home to Moldovan debutants FC Milsami Orhei in their first outing under ex-FC Barcelona youth coach Alex García. "Initially we failed to control the ball due to nerves," said the trainer. "It was our first match of the season and there were a lot of fans. We only got our game going in the middle of the first half. It's tough against sides like Milsami that play very tight at the back."
Nika Kvekveskiri and Irakli Lekvtadze found the target either side of the restart, leaving Milsami boss Ştefan Stoica with no complaints. "The better team won," he said. "Dinamo had most of the possession. We had some chances before the break but we failed to score an away goal and that is so important. Even so, I'm happy with my side. Despite everything, we still have a chance and we'll try to take it at home."
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