FC Malmö must overcome a 2-1 deficit at home to European debutants UPC Tavagnacco on Thursday having, by their own admission, underestimated the Italian team last week.
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Nine seasons on from Umeå IK winning their second UEFA Women's Cup, FC Malmö have ambitions to take the European crown back to Sweden – but their campaign could end at the first hurdle if they do not turn around a 2-1 deficit against UPC Tavagnacco on Thursday.
The 2010/11 Italian runners-up Tavagnacco, from near Udine, won their first-ever European fixture 2-1 last week to take a UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32 lead to Sweden, though Nilla Fischer's 89th-minute away goal gave hope to Malmö – whose only previous continental campaign took them to the 2003/04 semi-finals.
"You're never happy having lost, but we felt that Nilla Fischer's late goal was important for us," Malmö captain Malin Levenstad told UEFA.com. "They turned out to be better than we thought they'd be. We didn't expect Tavagnacco to play at such a high tempo and be so efficient when they got chances. They scored both their goals in a strong period in the first half after we'd given the ball away too easily."
Reigning Swedish champions Malmö are again very much involved in the Damallsvenskan title race for the Swedish league this year, tied on points with leaders Tyresö FF and one ahead of fellow European contenders Göteborg FC with two rounds left to play. But that will not distract the team from going all out against Tavagnacco.
"We know their players' abilities now," Levenstad said. "We'll also try to make the most of our artificial home surface. If only we'd done our job in the first leg, we could have won 3-0."
Instead, Tavagnacco are ahead and Italy midfielder Elisa Camporese took heart from that display. "In the first leg we understood that we could hurt Malmö," Camporese said. "If we produce the same level of performance in Sweden and we are a bit more careful in defence, I think we can qualify."
Tavagnacco coach Marco Rossi has no injury problems but admits his players are lacking match sharpness. "Malmö are very good physically and they have an advantage in this sense because they played many games already while our league season is yet to start," he said.
"However, I think the only mistake we made in the first leg was to sit on the two-goal lead. We should have tried to score the third because they lack a bit of pace in defence. Their late goal could change the whole approach ahead of the return leg because now we have to go to Sweden and try to score at least one goal. We cannot just defend."