It had been nine years since AS Jeunesse Esch last celebrated victory in Europe – when a 1-0 win against FC Sheriff in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League first qualifying round could not overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat – yet Thursday's 2-0 success over Finnish outfit TPS Turku gives them a real chance to advance in the UEFA Europa League.
"It's a great result and we go into the second leg in a good position. It's been nice to play in a team where everyone is fighting for each other," said midfielder Chu Wang, whose 52nd-minute goal in Luxembourg wrapped up Jeunesse Esch's first qualifying round first-leg victory. "It was a great performance. We played as a team and hardly gave our opponents any space," added captain and goalkeeper Marc Oberweis.
Reaching the next round of qualifying would mark the Luxembourger Cup winners' best European showing since 1963/64, when they made it through the preliminary round of the European Champion Clubs' Cup thanks to a 5-4 aggregate win against FC Haka, another Finnish side.
"We can enjoy the moment, but we know we have to be fully focused in the second leg. The Finns will go for it," continued Oberweis, recognising the threat posed by the Nordic club on Tuesday evening in Turku.
Manager Dan Theis believes his goalkeeper was the one who helped secure a two-goal cushion, Oberweis's litany of saves earning a clean sheet. "Oberweis played superbly. He had more than a say in the result," declared the 45-year-old. "Now we have a two-goal advantage and are in a great position. We're looking to defend it but it won't be easy."
Indeed Jeunesse may yet come up against a cold headwind in Finland's 'Land of a Thousand Lakes' on Tuesday, but this opportunity for Luxembourger football has not happened by accident. Only last year F91 Dudelange surprisingly eliminated FC Salzburg in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
"We have to give everything we've got next week to qualify. It would be absolutely fantastic for the whole club," said Wang. Their progression certainly wouldn't harm the game in Luxembourg – and it would put Jeunesse right up there with the best of the country's giant killers.
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