St Johnstone battled their way to a magnificent victory in Belarus, striker Steven Maclean’s 69th minute goal to give them the vital away goal and victory to take home to Perth for the second leg.
FC Minsk midfielder Mikita Butakin came close in the opening minutes with a shot that went just wide of the post. Moments later Gary McDonald headed over from a cross from the right hand side as the Saints fired back. Butakin was the most influential for the Belarussians having a number of efforts at Mannus between St Johnstone’s posts to no avail. Later in the first half Dutchman Nigel Hasselbaink came close with an effort which was well saved by the Minsk goalkeeper Bushma as the first-half ended all square.
The second half started as Murray Davidson recently re-signed for the Perth side, took the place of McDonald, five minutes in and Davidson was a threat FC Minsk throughout the half, coming close with a couple of efforts, from headers the first one winning a corner and the second of which just went past Bushma’s post. It took until the 69th minute for the Scottish side to grab the lead Maclean raced onto a long ball and fired the ball past Bushma to put St Johnstone in dreamland, a late flurry of pressure from FC Minsk came as they tried to get the equaliser but St Johnstone defended well and held on.
Another superb result for Tommy Wright and his men as they will be confident of qualifying by finishing the job off at McDermaid Park, they will be hopeful they can repeat the heroics of knocking out Rosenborg and look favourites to progress.
Motherwell on the other hand lost at home 2-0 to Russian Premier League side Kuban Krasnador at Fir Park. Ibrahima Balde formerly of Atletico Madrid ran the show and was a constant menace to the Motherwell rear-guard all night long.
Right from the beginning of the match it did not take the Russians long to assert their quality, with the Impressive Balde hitting the woodwork with a long range strike, that had the beating of new Motherwell number one Lee Hollis, Balde again almost opened the scoring a long ball over the top of the defence missed by Stephen McMannus but Balde’s shot just went wide. His next efforts were also close to bringing the opening goal, his first effort was just over the crossbar and the 2nd thundered off Hollis’ right hand post.
Motherwell had a few opportunities of their own while being outplayed in large spells, Belemov the Kuban goalkeeper looked less than convincing when faced with high-balls into his area, when he was fouled by Ian Vigurs, the incident yielded shouts for a Motherwell penalty but the referee was having none of it.
Kuban stepped it up in the opening stages of the second half and finally got the deserved lead on 52 minutes – great run again from Balde from the left took him past the defender with a cross which was finished by Popov for the vital away goal.
James McFadden was next with an effort to get the Scottish Premiership side back on level terms though his effort was sent wide of the goal and further volleyed efforts from Vigurs saved by Belemov.
Motherwell at that stage were growing into the game and gaining some confidence, yet their corner was cleared down-field and the outstanding Balde dashed onto it down the right before putting the chance of a plate for Popov to finish the game and the tie as a contest. Motherwell thought they had one goal back but a John Sutton header that looked net-bound came back off the post.
Just like Hibs before them the two away goals for Kuban have virtually sealed their place in the next round, sadly for Mothewell there is more chance of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster going for a pint in the local pub with the tooth fairy than them going to Russia and overturning the two-goal margin.
Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City kicked off their season in style with a 4-0 win over Swedish side Malmo.
Laudrup gave debuts to new boys Jordi Amat, Jonjo Shelvey and club record signing Wilfried Bony, and Bony grabbed two goals at the Liberty Stadium after Michu’s first half goal to put them in complete control of the tie. Swansea’s Swedish opponents had stunned Scottish Premiership side Hibernian in the previous round, beating them 9-0 on aggregate, but they were unable to put up much of a fight against the English Premier League side.
The opening goal came on 36 minutes when speedy winger Wayne Routledge’s through ball looked likely to be intercepted by Filip Helander but the defender slipped allowing Spanish number 10, Michu to amble through on goal and slide the ball home off the far post.
Bony was the Eredivisie’s leading goalscorer last season as he scored 31 goals for Vitesse Arnhem and he quickly proved why Swansea were so keen to splash out £12m for his services as his sharp instincts were on full show. With 55 minutes gone the striker rose highest in the box to nod a Routledge cross beyond goalkeeper Johan Dahlin’s despairing diving and just five minutes later he tapped home when Michu’s effort rebounded off the post to make it 3-0.
The hosts then took their foot off pedal and coasted towards the end of match but there was still time for another strike. Midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, signed from Real Betis this summer, fired home from 12 yards following a neat touch in the box from Bony to make it 4-0 which has all but sealed Swansea’s progression to the next qualifying round.
THURSDAY 1st AUGUST 2013
Sevilla 3-0 Mladost
Estoril 0-0 Hapoel Ramat Gan
Hajduk Split 0-1 Dila Gori
Motherwell 0-2 Kuban Krasnodar
Siroki Brijeg 1-3 Udinese
Slask Wroclaw 1-0 Club Brugge
Swansea City 4-0 Malmo
Asteras Tripolis 1-1 Rapid Vienna
St Etienne 3-0 Milsami Orhei
Xanthi 1-2 Standard Liege
Slovan Liberec 2-1 FC Zurich
Pandurii Targu-Jiu 1-1 Hapoel Tel Aviv
Vojvodina Novi Sad 2-2 Bursaspor
Botev Plovdiv 1-1 VfB Stuttgart
Kukesi 2-0 Metalurg Donetsk
Haecken 1-2 Thun
Rijeka 2-1 Zilina
Tromso 1-0 FC Differdange 03
Randers 1-2 Rubin Kazan
Zalgiris Vilnius 1-0 Lech Poznan
Chernomorets Odessa 3-1 Red Star Belgrade
Dinamo Minsk 0-1 Trabzonspor
FK Aktobe 1-0 Breidablik
Jablonec 2-1 Stromsgodset IF
FK Minsk 0-1 St. Johnstone
FK Ventspils 0-0 Maccabi Haifa
Garabagh Agdam 1-0 Gefle
Petrolul Ploiesti 1-1 Vitesse Arnhem
Laugaricio Trencin 1-3 FC Astra