The decisive stage of the Champions League qualifiers is underway. We have seen a lot of matches and it is time to decide the final teams that will join the group stage.
Qarabag and Plzen End the Match 0:0
Qarabag, which in the previous round put a barrier on Stanislav Cherchesov’s way to the Champions League, completed the minimum task. The Azerbaijani team will be represented in the group stage of the European Cup for the ninth time in a row. And all – under the leadership of Gurban Gurbanov. So the current courage of Qarabag, which stunned Ferencvaros with an overactive game in Budapest, is a systemic thing. And, of course, Azerbaijanis dream of the Champions League, not going to be content with the second European Cup.
Accordingly, Plzen in Baku had to face an opponent who seeks to dictate their terms. We should also note that according to all bookmakers including 22Bet Qarabag were the favourites to win the match. In the course of one attack by the hosts, Stanek made two cool saves, and Zoubir did not have enough centimetres to reach the ball and, in the fall, close the cross from the goal area. The goalkeeper Magomedaliyev, however, also had no time for boredom, and the game looked on a collision course.
However, after a bright first half, football became a little more cautious. Mainly due to the pragmatism of the Czechs. Perhaps the most dangerous moment of the second half of the match was a cool long-range shot by Filip Ozobic, but even here the goalkeeper of Plzen played superbly. In any case, everything will be decided in a week, and it is not a fact that the hosts in Plzen will be favourites. Firstly, they lost leading central defender Hejda by disqualification. And, secondly, Qarabag started with a home draw against Ferencvaros.
Benfica Overpower Ukrainians
Mircea Lucescu’s team went through two qualifying rounds largely thanks to their character. Both Fenerbahce and Sturm were defeated in overtime. But still, Benfica is a slightly different weight category, where the forward of the Ukrainian national team Yaremchuk, who would theoretically be the first star of Dynamo, acts as a joker.
Unlike previous rivals, the Portuguese punished the footballers of Dynamo Kyiv, using even minimal chances. For example, defender Gilberto, who supported the offensive, shot at the first opportunity, and the ball stuck into the near corner. And David Neres was on the lookout for an inaccurate pass of the opponent to his own goal, after which Goncalo Ramos just had to put the ball into a corner.
Joao Mario could also have scored, but the former Inter midfielder has a different result: in all three European matches this season, he scored assists. At the same time, it cannot be said that Dynamo looked hopeless. Moreover, when Karavaev came on as a substitute, counterplay began to turn out, and in a couple of episodes, Vlachodimos had to work hard to defend his goal intact. And it is obvious that with a margin of two goals in a week, the Eagles simply need not come up with a problem.
Maccabi Beat Crvena Zvezda
Maccabi is one of the revelations of the qualifying rounds. The 4-0 away win against the Greek champion Olympiacos was Stunning. The Cypriot Apollon after this looked doomed and also received four unanswered goals. So the defence of Crvena Zvezda in Haifa was strained from the first minutes. Particularly zealous striker Frantzdy Pierrot, who missed his first moment, but then skillfully oriented in front of the goal after the rebound.
This striker already has five goals on his way to the Champions League, but Maccabi seemed to be afraid of his first success. Although, rather, the ardour of the hosts was cooled by the effectiveness of the counterattacks of Crvena Zvezda. The first lunge with what seemed to be a not-too-dangerous shot by Katai proved to be a killer due to the ball hitting the trajectory-changing Pesic, who received a great gift on the occasion of the birth of his daughter.
After that, the Israelis were so confused that they miraculously avoided at least two goals in their own net, but still could not hold out until the break. A lesson in implementation was given to teammates by the former Rostov midfielder Kanga. However, the pause helped Maccabi to recover, and they started the second half as well as the first. Namely – from the goal of Pierrot, who famously punched his head. The main thing is that this time they did not stop, and Chery hit from the penalty line in such a way that Borjan helplessly followed the ball that had flown into the corner with his eyes. After such a game, the second leg in Belgrade promises to be one of the most intriguing in this round.