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Milsami's historic run delights locals

"We're delighted to make the people in our city happy," said FC Milsami Orhei coach Ştefan Stoica as his side prepare to make their third qualifying round bow at AS Saint-Étienne.

Milsami celebrate reaching the third qualifying round for the first time
Milsami celebrate reaching the third qualifying round for the first time ©Boris Kharchenko

FC Milsami Orhei hail from a city of 32,000 inhabitants and are entering the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round for the first time, with coach Ştefan Stoica stating his delight at pleasing the locals regardless of the result against AS Saint-Étienne on Thursday.

The Moldovan side saw off the challenge of Luxembourg's F91 Dudelange and then clinched a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus last week to confirm the club's maiden third qualifying round berth. Stoica's charges now make the trip to France to face St-Étienne and will call on their togetherness to get a positive result. "We have the right attitude towards the game," said the coach. "Everybody, players and management, are united. We have a great team. We're delighted to make the people in our city happy."

The Eagles' achievement is even more impressive given their record in the competition. Their two previous appearances ended in first qualifying round exits at the hands of FC Dinamo Tbilisi and FC Aktobe, and club president Ilan Shor is understandably thrilled with their progress. "Finally we have achieved what we wanted and qualified for the third qualifying round," he said. "This [second qualifying round win] was historic, not only for our club but also for the country."

Indeed, their second-round victory over Shakhtyor was a remarkable tale in its own right. Milsami's reserve goalkeeper Gheorghe Bantîş proved the unlikely hero – coming on in the 90th minute after No1 Andrian Negai was dismissed, he saved two penalties in the shoot-out that followed extra time. Negai is not the only absentee from the party travelling to France, as striker Gheorghe Boghiu – the Moldovan First Division's top scorer last term – is sidelined for six to eight weeks with a knee injury.

His replacement Guillherme has a special insight into their Ligue 1 opponents and knows they are in for a tough game. "We are very much looking forward to the matches against the French team," he told UEFA.com. "My friend Brandão plays for St-Étienne. Their level is very high but we are desperate to produce a good performance."