Chris Burke watched Clube Brugge KV and FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk draw 0-0 and felt the home side were outplayed and the visitors showed class, but praised Obbi Oularé.
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Club Brugge full of belief
Coaches often stress how a 0-0 home draw is a good result in Europe, but this UEFA Europa League quarter-final first-leg stalemate against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk felt more like a missed opportunity for Club Brugge KV. Facing opponents who have won just one of seven matches on their continental travels this season, the Belgian side were outplayed – and now face a long trip to Kyiv next week. Not a set of circumstances to inspire confidence, but Michel Preud'homme's charges see the situation differently. "We haven't done that badly," argued defender Davy De Fauw. "I still give us about a 60% chance of getting through. We just have to get one goal."
Dnipro's unfair reputation
The visitors came into this game renowned for their tough tackling and physical attributes, having collected a total of 41 yellow cards in this season's UEFA Europa League – ten more than any other side – and registered 195 fouls, the highest total by a clear 39. What nobody mentioned was that they are capable of some excellent football, and they picked holes in the Club Brugge defence with relative ease in the first half, Ruslan Rotan stitching together the midfield. "We have good players and we're good on the ball," explained midfielder Bruno Gama. "Yes, we're strong, but we can play as well." Also, they are the most sinned against, suffering 182 fouls, 17 more than anyone else.
Konoplayanka kept quiet… just
Dnipro's dynamic winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was touted as their main threat and Club Brugge fans must have feared the worst when he bore down on 38-year-old makeshift centre-back Timmy Simons early on. The veteran contained the danger on that occasion, and survived another raid when Konoplayanka slipped while shooting, before goalkeeper Matthew Ryan came to the rescue with two vital saves at the end, including a superb stop at full stretch.
Oularé has potential
A surprise starter in place of Tom De Sutter, 19-year-old Obbi Oularé was picked for his physical presence and did not disappoint. Holding the ball up excellently in the first half, he also released José Izquierdo for a free burst at goal by skipping past Jaba Kankava and serving up an excellent through ball, only for goalkeeper Denys Boyko to have the final say. "I'm especially happy with my first half," said the youngster, who brought to mind a certain Romelu Lukaku. "The comparison makes me very happy. He's a great forward."
Refaelov trying too hard
With competition top scorers Alan and Lukaku out of the running, Club Brugge's Lior Refaelov and SSC Napoli's Gonzalo Higuaín started the day two goals back on six apiece and hopeful of pressuring the leaders. However, while Higuaín found the net in Germany, Refaelov endured a frustrating evening. A dipping effort in the first half set the pulse racing, but most of the Israel winger's extravagant flicks proved wasteful and he was a largely peripheral figure.