Kardemir Karabükspor – nicknamed 'Blue Fire' – celebrated their maiden European victory on Thursday, beating AS Saint-Étienne 1-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off tie. Coach Tolunay Kafkas is not getting carried away, however: "Our job will be very difficult in the second leg," he said.
Karabükspor had already sprung a surprise in the third qualifying round when they eliminated seasoned European campaigners Rosenborg BK of Norway on away goals. While that prompted praise from the domestic press, the continental media are now starting to take note following Thursday's defeat of the Ligue 1 side.
Though it was Dominick Kumbela who scored the 60th-minute winner in northern Turkey, Larrys Mabiala and Erkan Kaş also caught the eye in an impressive all-round display. "We knew about how St-Étienne physically pressure their opponents in the league," said Kafkas. "Generally we had control of the game, but we lost it between around 25 and 40 minutes. My players did exactly what I requested them to do. I always try to be realistic – our job will be really difficult in the second leg."
St-Étienne may have lost on the pitch, but their fervent supporters more than held their own off it. Indeed Karabükspor midfielder Samba Sow, having had a taste of it in the home instalment, is wary of what awaits the Süper Lig team next Thursday at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard – known affectionately as the Cauldron. "We will play in a very hostile atmosphere with the pressure of the home fans," said Sow. "But we still want to keep our advantage and reach the group stage."
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