FC Slovan Liberec coach Jaroslav Šilhavý is not letting euphoria overcome him despite a surprise 3-1 victory at Udinese Calcio in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off tie.
Three spectacular away goals scored by Ukrainian midfielder Serhiy Rybalka, Congolese forward Dzon Delarge and defender Ondřej Kušnír came from just four Liberec attempts on target. Udinese, meanwhile, hit the woodwork three times and earned 14 corners and at least four clear chances. Slovan now stand on the brink of a first group stage campaign since the 2006/07 UEFA Cup. However, having led FC Dinamo Bucureşti 3-0 after the opening leg of a 2009/10 play-off, only to end up losing on penalties, Šilhavý is right to be cautious ahead of next Thursday's return.
"It is a great result especially as we were away," Šilhavý said. "But I am not a naive man who thinks everything is decided. I do not remember a game in my career in which our opponents had so many chances with a great deal of ball possession and we were so effective at finishing. But football is like that sometimes, we know we were extremely lucky.
"Before the game I was talking about a result that would keep alive our chances of qualification for the home game. Now our hope is alive, but still our opponents showed tremendous quality mainly in the first half. It is just half-time in the tie and it will be very tough. I have to thank my players for their brave performance. We appreciate such a win a lot."
Šilhavý certainly has respect for the Serie A club and their strike partnership Antonio Di Natale and Luis Muriel. "We fought in the space that was allowed by Udinese," the 52-year-old coach said. "Forwards Muriel and Di Natale confirmed how dangerous they are, but our defence and goalkeeper worked very well."
However, Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin knows there will be a lot of hard work to do in Liberec next Thursday if they are to earn a place in the group stage for a third consecutive year. "We will have to produce an excellent performance to be able to think of qualification," he said. "We were very unlucky though. Liberec played an outstanding game and showed their strength and commitment."
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