FK Renova's Vlatko Kostov is under no illusions his charges are very much "outsiders", but trailing only 2-1 to FC Dinamo Minsk and with home advantage the Macedonian side are in determined mood.
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A 2-1 loss at FC Dinamo Minsk has left FYR Macedonia's FK Renova in sight of the second qualifying round, with coach Vlatko Kostov saying: "On paper we are outsiders, but we are determined to prove we are a good team."
FC BATE Borisov's presence in last season's UEFA Champions League group stage was evidence that Belarussian football's stock is rising. Yet despite their opponents featuring a number of players who had been involved at the recent UEFA European Under-21 Championship, Besart Ibraimi gave Renova the lead in Minsk, and they were only denied a draw by substitute Oleg Strakhanovich's goal three minutes from time. Not bad for a village side.
Based in Dzepciste, a small settlement in the suburbs of Tetovo, Renova have come a long way in the six years since they were founded in 2003, taking on the third division place occupied by FC Shkumbini Tetovo. With support from the local plaster company, with which they share their name, the Gypsum Boys shot up through the leagues, competing in the Macedonian top tier for the first time in 2005/06, and earning a first crack at European competition last season.
'We are outsiders'
Last time round, they eliminated Croatia's HNK Rijeka in the first round of the UEFA Intertoto Cup before bowing out to Bnei Sakhnin FC of Israel, giving them reason to feel confident against Dinamo. "On paper we are outsiders, but we are determined to prove we are a good team," said Kostov, who also works as assistant to national-team coach Mirsad Jonuz, a role he has filled since he was Under-21 boss. "We played well in Minsk. We didn't deserve to lose the first match; our luck deserted us."
Renova will look to make amends at the Gradski Stadium in Skopje and earn a meeting with Tromsø IL though are expected to again be without star summer signing, Boban Jancevski. Fisnik Gasi is likely to come in. "We have a good result behind us; a 2-1 loss gives us hope that we can get through," said captain Fisnik Huhiu. "We have enough strength and quality to play in the next round. We need one goal and a clean sheet to progress, but we must play even better than in the first match."