As footballing logic dictates, if you are being fouled a lot then you must be doing something right. FC Vorskla Poltava have lost their opening two UEFA Europa League Group B games but forward Roman Bezus has come to the attention of opposition defenders in no uncertain terms: he and Sporting Clube de Portugal's Stijn Schaars share the distinction of having been fouled 11 times each in the first two matchdays, more than any other player.
The 21-year-old was a sporadic annoyance to FC København during Vorskla's 1-0 away loss on matchday one, before proving a one-man insurrection at home to Hannover 96 last time out as the Ukrainian side almost recovered a 2-0 half-time deficit, the game finishing 2-1. Mykola Pavlov's team have received some harsh lessons in the group stage yet their blond-haired attacker is learning fast.
"In both games I felt like I had done everything right except for the end product," Ukrainian Under-21 international Bezus told UEFA.com. "Their defenders either blocked me off at key moments or covered the space. I have had to change my game – to play faster, make quicker decisions, give better passes. Having done that, in the second half against Hannover things finally started to look good."
If the all-action Bezus continues in a similar vein, R. Standard de Liège may face a torrid time over the next two matchdays, beginning in Belgium on Thursday. "Everybody at Vorskla knows these matches will determine everything, particularly the away game," Bezus said. "We have to avoid defeat. We all want to win and we'll do everything we can to get three points, but we need at least one to have a chance of qualifying."
A product of Vorskla's academy and a key figure in the Ukraine U21 side, Bezus counts AS Roma striker Francesco Totti as his footballing hero, and while he is not as prolific a marksman – with one goal in eight UEFA Europa League games and 11 more in 59 Ukrainian Premier-Liha matches – he is certainly a rough diamond.
The hope is that Vorskla and Bezus are finally ready to give the competition their best shot. "We were a bit anxious initially, nervous even," he said. "Most of us are playing in the group stage of a big tournament for the first time, but that excitement is gone now. The second half against Hannover showed we are ready to compete at this level."
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