By Khachik Chakhoyan
Three goals in eleven minutes either side of half-time helped FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi take the initiative in their UEFA Cup first qualifying round tie at FC Banants, although strikes from Aram Hakobyan and Tigran Gharabaghtsyan brought the home team back into contention.
Much of the pre-match hype surrounded Lokomotivi Tbilisi's midfield prodigy George Alaverdashvili and the 17-year-old did not disappoint, breaking the deadlock on 42 minutes. Lasha Kebadze and George Oniani made it 3-0 early in the second period as the visitors seized control, but Banants dragged themselves back into the tie in the closing stages.
The late goals will be a blow to Lokomotivi Tbilisi, who looked at ease for much of the encounter in Yerevan, not least Alaverdashvili. The teenager caused his Armenian hosts problems from the kick-off and it was little surprise that he struck first just before the interval, springing the offside trap before sliding the ball past Manuchari Ivardava.
The Banants goalkeeper was beaten again three minutes after the restart when Kebadze, who had earlier seen a long-range effort hit the post, lashed the ball in from an acute angle. By now the Georgian Cup winners were pouring forward, with wing-backs Roin Oniani and Mikheil Makhviladze playing as auxiliary wingers.
But it was another Oniani, centre-back George, who secured a three-goal cushion on 53 minutes, converting from the penalty spot. However, with the tie seemingly in their hands, the away team eased off. Samvel Melkonyan soon took advantage, testing Beka Shekriladze with a fine shot, but Lokomotivi Tbilisi did not heed the warning and were made to pay.
With eight minutes remaining Hakobyan revived the home crowd's hopes by pulling a goal back and that optimism grew when substitute Gharabaghtsyan further reduced the deficit in the final minute. The stage is set for an intriguing second leg in Georgia on 28 July.