Having gone so close to qualifying from their UEFA Champions League pool, FC Artmedia made a disappointing start to their UEFA Cup campaign as they were beaten 1-0 by PFC Levski Sofia in the first leg of their Round of 32 tie.
The match had been switched from Artmedia's Tehelné Pole home to the Antona Malatinského stadium in Trnava, 45km away, due to the poor condition of the pitch in Bratislava. As a consequence the Slovakian champions lacked the fluency which characterised their home draws with Rangers FC and FC Porto earlier this season, and were undone by Emil Angelov's solitary goal in the ninth minute - leaving them plenty to do in the return leg in Bulgaria next Thursday.
Coach Vladimír Weiss started tonight's match with just five of the side that began against Porto in December, and Levski were quick to take advantage of his new-look team. L'uboš Kamenár had already had to be alert to deny Hristo Yovov, when Angelov stroked a low shot into the centre of the goal after being teed up by Daniel Borimirov. Like his team, Yovov enjoyed a fine start to the match and from his cross Frenchman Cédric Bardon really should have doubled the advantage.
Dimitar Telkiyski then headed Lucio Wagner's cross straight at Kamenár as Levski pressed, while all Artmedia had to show for their first-half efforts were two weak shots from range from Branislav Fodrek and Juraj Halenár. Weiss introduced Lubos Reiter for Michal Kubala in the 53rd minute and soon after Artmedia fashioned their best opportunity, Halenár heading over when well placed five metres out. Levski goalkeeper Georgi Petkov then superbly denied Branislav Obžera from close range before the visitors passed up two opportunities to double their lead, Milan Koprivarov and Angelov failing to convert.