Mammoth journeys ended in positive outcomes for two clubs and FC Zestafoni's Jaba Dvali secured a UEFA Europa League first, but Birkirkara FC missed out as the first qualifying round concluded.
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Mammoth journeys ended in positive outcomes for FC Zimbru Chişinău and Haladás FC while FC Zestafoni's Jaba Dvali secured a UEFA Europa League first as the first qualifying round concluded.
Goals from brothers Oleg and Gheorghe Andronic earned Zimbru a 2-0 win at FC Okzheptes Kokshetau, completing a 3-2 aggregate triumph which will make the 2,927km return journey from Kazakhstan back to Moldova go a little faster. In two Thursdays' time they will travel a further 3,000km west for the second leg of their second qualifying round tie against FC Paços de Ferreira of Portugal. Hungary's Haladás FC lost 2-1 to Okzheptes' domestic rivals FC Irtysh Pavlodar but nonetheless progress on away goals, having won the home leg 1-0. Having journeyed 2,840km south-west to get to the match, which was played in Karagandy, the next round sends the Szombathely side a relatively modest 1,191km north to Boras, where they will take on Sweden's IF Elfsborg.
A 1-1 draw in Armenia against FC MIKA ensured that Elfsborg's Allsvenskan rivals Helsingborgs IF made comfortable progress to the next stage, having won the home leg 3-1. Struggling with a groin problem after scoring twice in the first leg, star striker Henrik Larsson did not play, but could well be available as Helsingborg kick off their second qualifying round tie away against Zestafoni. The Georgian contenders won 6-0 against Northern Ireland's Lisburn Distillery FC to complete an 11-1 aggregate win – the biggest of the round – with Jaba Dvali's goals in the fifth, 39th and 42nd minutes making him the first hat-trick scorer, both of the 2009/10 European season and in the embryonic history of the UEFA Europa League.
There were no major upsets in any of the ties. Malta's Birkirkara FC had high hopes after losing 1-0 in the first leg of their tie against NK Slaven Koprivnica, but while they dominated the second leg, the Croatian side clung on for a 0-0 draw – and a meeting with FK Milano of FYR Macedonia. Llanelli AFC won 1-0 at Motherwell FC last week but came unstuck at home, bowing out with a 3-0 loss. Fellow Welshmen The New Saints FC also missed the cut following a second 2-1 loss against Fram Reykjavík – this one at home.
The dubious honour of meeting 1991 European champions FK Crvena Zvezda in the next round went to Slovenia's NK Rudar Velenje, with a 3-1 win completing a 6-1 aggregate victory against JK Trans Narva. Albania's KS Vllaznia will meet Austria's SK Rapid Wien in the next round, but their progress against Sligo Rovers FC was less serene than they might have hoped. Having won 2-1 in Ireland, Ndriçim Shtubina's goal made it 3-1 on aggregate, but after Vioresin Sinani's dismissal on 79 minutes, Alan Keane scored for their visitors to set up a frantic seven minutes of added time, with Conor O'Grady sent off for Sligo at the death. Click hereto see all tonight's results.
Seeded teams in bold
* tie reversed