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BATE edge ever closer to dream date

PFC Levski Sofia 0-1 FC BATE Borisov
The Belarussian champions are a game away from the group stage after claiming a shock triumph in Bulgaria.

Levski captain Georgi Ivanov vies with BATE's Vitali Kazantsev
Levski captain Georgi Ivanov vies with BATE's Vitali Kazantsev ©Stoyan Georgiev

Veremko heroics
BATE accounted for RSC Anderlecht in the second qualifying round, though Levski might have expected to prevail having reached the group stage as recently as 2006/07. Indeed, all was going to plan for the home side as they attacked from the off, but goalkeeper Sergei Veremko brilliantly kept them at bay, denying Georgi Ivanov from the penalty spot on 34 minutes. It gave BATE belief and the visitors took the lead on the hour when Rzveksiy rose unmarked to head in a corner. It was BATE's first and last opportunity of the game but, repeat the feat in the second leg in a fortnight and the most unlikeliest of group stage places awaits.

Pivotal moment
Levski will have other ideas, and there was enough in their first-half performance to suggest they can still turn the tie around. Despite having lost each of their last eight games in the UEFA Champions League they started with a real attacking intent, keeping Veremko busy throughout the opening half-hour. The keeper stood up well to the task and though he was culpable for bringing down Georgi Hristov in the penalty area, he made amends to deny Ivanov from the spot.

Vutsov resigns
BATE were invigorated, closed ranks at the back and gradually escaped the confines of their own half. It was from one such sortie that Rzveksiy capitalised on some lax marking to silence the home crowd, if only briefly. Levski went on the attack, defender Zhivko Milanov heading over the bar and then seeing another effort superbly saved by Veremko. Jean Carlos put another header agonisingly wide in the dying moments, and it was too much for Vutsov who stepped down soon after full-time. Assistant Emil Velev has been named as his temporary replacement.