"What they have achieved far surpassed my expectations," said Linfield FC manager David Jeffrey after the Northern Irish team's 1-1 first-leg draw with FC BATE Borisov.
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Linfield FC manager David Jeffrey has declared the Belfast club's 1-1 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round draw with FC BATE Borisov a result "beyond my wildest dreams".
The Northern Irish part-timers will visit Belarus on level terms for the return leg thanks to a debut goal from midfielder Daryl Fordyce against a team that played in the group stage three seasons ago and reached the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League round of 32. Fordyce, signed from city rivals Glentoran FC in May, bundled in from close range after five minutes, before BATE, the round's highest-ranked club, equalised through Renan Bressan's penalty later in the first half.
"I'm ecstatic with the performance," Jeffrey said. "I had asked the players to ensure they came away from the tie with some degree of respectability
. What they have achieved far surpassed my expectations. BATE are a quality side and a club that has enjoyed some great results in Europe. They have drawn with Juventus and defeated Everton in recent times.
"We knew we would have to be at the top of our game but to come away with a 1-1 draw is a massive result, particularly when you consider we're still in pre-season. I wouldn't have dared to dream of us holding BATE to this scoreline. It is beyond my wildest dreams.
"I think our supporters can be very proud of the way the players represented their club in such brave and courageous fashion. Our tactics worked well, it was a very disciplined performance from the players and they deserve credit."
While delighted with Wednesday's result at Windsor Park, Jeffrey is realistic about the daunting task awaiting Linfield in next Tuesday's second leg at the Gorodskoy Stadion in Borisov. He said: "BATE were massive favourites before the first leg and they are still massive favourites. They have an away goal to their credit so we're under no illusions. It will be very tough."
BATE coach Viktor Goncharenko, whose charges are on course for a fourth straight Belarusian title in as many years, added: "
We were going for a win but did not play as well as I expected. I am sure we will play much better in the second leg and create more opportunities."