In terms of away performances by the seeded teams in Qualifying Round 2 for this season’s Champions League (seven of the seeded teams were away for their first leg ties) Celtic’s 3:0 victory against a gallant Cliftonville side in Belfast last night was the second best of all the results. Dinamo Zagreb did best of all, exfoliating the Luxembourg champions Fola Esch by 5:0 in the Stade Municipal, Differdange, a match refereed by Scotland’s Bobby Madden, the closest any of the spectators will ever see to the late Harry Lauder. If we’re looking for any form in this one it might be interesting to note that for all it’s a result that looks good on paper, the Croats were unable to score until the 59th minute. They rattled in another four in the following 19 minutes right enough.
Legia Warsaw went behind against the New Saints – starring Roger More as Simon Templar – before eventually taking home a 3:1 win, while Maccabi Tel Aviv won by a similar 2 goal margin, keeping a clean sheet in their victory against the Less Than Mighty Magyars of ETO Györ.
Molde looked decidedly mouldy at times in a stodgy performance against the Rovers of Sligo, although they too will be happy not to have conceded in their win by the narrowest of margins. Sligo’s European record of one win in 18 European games (it was in the Cup Winners Cup against Floriana of Malta back in the 90s) will doubtless give Molde hope that they can have the Irishmen singing the Norwegian Blues (Any more dreadful puns like that and you’re fired – Ed).
It’s debatable which of the two away draws were worst. NK Maribor, the Sovenian club that hammered one of the nails into the coffin lid of the late Glasgow Rangers a couple of years ago, couldn’t score against the honeycomb-centred Maltesers of Birkirkara while Partizan Belgrade managed to score against Shirak Gyumri in Armenia. To put that in some perspective, the Armenians had to qualify for the minnows section of the draw for this round via the plankton round. They did beat Tre Penne on San Marino on aggregate (3:1) but lost 0:1 in the principality against a team that sounds more like an antipasto dish than a football team .Nevertheless, both of these seeds should make short work of their opponents in the respective home ties. Maribor are potential opponents for Celtic in Q3.
This particular round is not renowned for shocks but this year certainly threw up a few interesting first leg scores for the seeds playing at home in the first leg. Steaua are almost certainly through after a 3:0 win against Vardar Skopje of Macedonia and there was a big win for Elfsborg against Latvian champions Daugava Daugavpils (7:1) but there might yet be a stewards inquiry into this one as rumours of unusual betting patterns have been circulating. Watch this space.
Spare a thought, too, for fans of EB Streymour (the Faroese football club, not the writer of Scandanavian detective novels). Another qualifier from the first round (the Group of Shite) they managed to sink Lusitanos of Andorra 7:3 on aggregate – despite being held to a 2:2 draw in the Pyrenees – then were drawn to play Dynamo Tbilisi, a round trip of flight of 5,034 miles last done by Charles Lindberg. Any supporters making the 18 hour, £2,500 journey would have arrived in the Georgian capital just in time to see EB on the receiving end of a 6:1 trouncing before having to do it all in reverse to be home for the league game this Saturday.
Elsewhere, Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic did score 4 at home, but they let in 3 against Zeljeznicar Sarajevo so this one could go either way (hopefully the way of the Bosnians for reasons we can hopefully explore in a future post) as could the game involving Slovan Bratislava who could only manage a narrow 2:1 win in Slovakia against Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad.
As if to prove that the coefficients are a pretty accurate form guide, the three worst ranked of the seeded sides obtained the three worst results of the night: Neftchi Baku drew 0:0 with Albanians Skënderbeu Korçë in Azerbaijan, HJK Helsinki travel across the Baltic with the same scoreline to take on Kalju Nomme in Estonia next week and Ekranes visit Iceland to play FH Hafnarfjardur, who are close to announcing that their new honourary chairman will be Steve Martin, reprising his role as Doctor Hfuhruhurr from The Man With Two Brains. FH Hafnarfjardur have a coefficient of 1.190 which puts them right down in the Eurobasement. FK Sutjeska Niksic aren’t much better at 1.300 yet they ran Sheriff out of town with a 1:1 draw in Moldova.
The dubious distinction of most depressed support today probably goes to the fans of BATE Borisov. 3-1 conquerors of Bayern Munich in the Group Stage in 2012, the Byelorussians are the highest ranked of all the seeds in this round of the tournament with a coefficient of 39.175 (Celtic are 2nd – 37.538) yet they managed the almost unthinkable feat of losing at home to Shakhtyor Karaganda of Kazakhstan (coeff – 2.941). The most uncomfortable trip to the Caucasus since General Paulus stopped off at Stalingrad awaits them.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s draw for the third round, here are the teams we might face in order of my preference (i.e. lowest coefficient first):
- Neftchi Baku or Skënderbeu Korçë (pref Korçë)
Ekranas Panevezys or FH Hafnarfjardar (pref HF)
HJK Helsinki or Kalju Nomme (pref Kalju)
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Slovan Bratislava or Ludogorets Razgrad (pref Ludogerets)
Sheriff Tiraspol or Sutjeska Niksic (pref Sutjeska)
Champions League Qualifying Round 2
(Seeded teams in bold)
Neftchi Baku Azb Skënderbeu Korçë Alb 0-0
Steaua Bucuresti Rom Vardar Skopje Mac 3-0
Viktoria Plzen Cze Zeljeznicar Sarajevo Bos 4-3
Sheriff Tiraspol Mol Sutjeska Niksic Mon 1-1
Birkirkara Mlt NK Maribor Slo 0-0
Sligo Rovers Irl Molde FK Nor 0-1
IF Elfsborg Swe Daugava Daugavpils Lat 7-1
HJK Helsinki Fin Kalju Nomme Est 0-0
Ekranas Panevezys Lit FH Hafnarfjardar Isl 0-1
The New Saints Wal Legia Warsaw Pol 1-3
Cliftonville Nir Celtic Sco 0-3
CS Fola Esch Lux Dinamo Zagreb Cro 0-5
ETO Györ Hun Maccabi Tel-Aviv Isr 0-2
BATE Borisov Bls Shakhtyor Karaganda Kaz 0-1
Shirak Gyumri Arm Partizan Belgrade Srb 1-1
Slovan Bratislava Svk Ludogorets Razgrad Bul 2-1
Dinamo Tbilisi Geo EB Streymur Far 6-1
Bert Kassies site is essential for keeping up
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