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Ten-man Zestafoni progress despite defeat

FC Dacia Chisinau 2-0 FC Zestafoni (agg: 2-3)
Zestafoni held on for a place in the third qualifying round after Teimuraz Gongadze was sent off in Moldova.

Ghenadie Orbu scores Dacia's second from the penalty spot
Ghenadie Orbu scores Dacia's second from the penalty spot ©Boris Kharchenko

UEFA Champions League debutants FC Zestafoni reached the third qualifying round despite being reduced to ten men in losing to fellow newcomers FC Dacia Chisinau.

With a mountain to climb after their 3-0 reverse in Georgia last week, Dacia were seemingly on the comeback trail following Dumitru Popovici's 20th-minute opener. The momentum was firmly with the hosts after Teimuraz Gongadze was booked twice in five second-half minutes, but Ghenadie Orbu's added-time penalty proved too little too late.

The Moldovan champions started in positive fashion, with Janko Tumbašević testing the reflexes of Roin Kvaskhvadze inside five minutes. The visitors soon found their feet, though, Shota Grigalashvili and captain Tornike Aptsiauri forcing Artiom Gaiduchevici into two fine saves.

The breakthrough for Dacia came when Maxim Mihaliov's free-kick was met by Popovici, who powered a header past Kvaskhvadze. Igor Dobrovolski's side struggled to build on their lead in the first half but were given a helping hand in the 64th-minute when Gongadze received his marching orders for a challenge on Abdoul-Gafar Mamah, moments after being booked for a foul on Alexandru Dedov.

Despite their numerical advantage, the hosts struggled to break down a resilient Zestafoni defence which stood firm until Giorgi Oniani handled inside the penalty area. Orbu converted the 90th-minute spot kick but Dacia had no time to find the elusive goal which would have forced extra time. Zestafoni face SK Sturm Graz in the third qualifying round, the first leg of which takes place on 26/27 July.