FC BATE Borisov and FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk's European campaigns ended this week, but capital rivals FC Minsk and FC Dinamo Minsk raised Belarusian spirits with success.
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Fans on both sides of Minsk's football divide have a spring in their step this morning after FC Minsk and FC Dinamo Minsk navigated their way to the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round with impressive showings on Thursday.
After FC BATE Borisov's elimination from the UEFA Champions League by Kazakh rivals FC Shakhter Karagandy on Tuesday, the capital rivals helped restore pride to the game in Belarus with Dinamo Minsk putting in an outstanding display in Croatia to earn a tie with Trabzonspor AŞ. After a 2-1 home loss to NK Lokomotiva Zagreb last week seemed to have ended the hopes of Robert Maaskant's men, they excelled in a 3-2 success at the Stadion Maksimir to secure an away-goals win.
"It was a wonderful night," said Dutch coach Maaskant after seeing Serbian forward Lazar Veselinović score twice to help Dinamo progress. "We had a great first half and were attacking all the time. After Lokomotiva's second equaliser the game became completely open and we were lucky to score one goal more. I expect my team to play even better in the coming games."
Lokomotiva Zagreb coach Tomislav Ivković thought his team warranted better against opponents ranked fourth in the Belarusian Premier League after 18 games. "We probably deserved a happier fate," he said. "We played below par till they scored the goals, but we improved afterwards and I am proud of my lads. I cannot complain much. We were just unlucky."
Meanwhile, Minsk beat Valletta FC of Malta 2-0 to complete a 3-1 aggregate triumph and set up a meeting with Scotland's Saint Johnstone FC, themselves conquerors of Rosenborg BK. Roman Vasilyuk and Vital Kibuk got the goals early in the second half to make it a great night in the capital.
"We knew Valletta would not give us too much space," said coach Vadzim Skrypchanka. "We had some good openings in the first half but did not convert them. I was even a bit worried at half-time. However, as the second half started, Vasilyuk showed his quality to break the deadlock and that goal helped us a lot. Then we managed to score another."
Belarus's other representative FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk went down 4-2 on penalties to Moldova's FC Milsami Orhei after two 1-1 draws in the second qualifying round.