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The games from the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round were played over the last two days all across Europe. We saw some great matches and some very interesting results. Some of the teams managed to secure huge wins which will most probably take them through to the next round, while other encounters will be decided in the second leg next week.
Starting with the games played on Tuesday, the biggest surprise was probably Red Bull Salzburg’s defeat away to Luxembourg side Dudelange. The Austrian champions lost 1-0 to an Aurelien Joachim goal in the 75th minute, which, by the way, was the striker’s fifth goal in three matches this season. Red Bull dominated the game and had more chances on goal, but Dudelange goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert made some brilliant saves. Despite that win, it will be a major surprise if the Luxembourgian team manage to knock out Salzburg at this early stage of the competition and I expect the Austrians to win comfortably in the return game, despite the fact that they’ll be without Jonathan Soriano (formerly at Espanyol and Barcelona), who was sent off in the last minute and will miss the second leg.
Swiss champions Basel were also in action, and they secured a comfortable 2-0 away victory over Flora Tallinn from Estonia. The first half ended 0-0, but legendary striker Alex Frei scored two in the second part, thus giving his team an important win in their quest to yet another participation in the Champions League group stage.
Hungarian champions Debrecen surprisingly lost against Albanian side Skenderbeu, a 1-0 away defeat. The Hungarians were so poor, that they didn’t manage a single shot towards their opponent’s goal for the whole 90 minutes, while the hosts dominated the match from start till end. It has to be noted that it was a nervous and unfair match with a total of 9 yellow cards.
Two of the teams that are already thinking for the next round of the competition are HJK from Finland and Partizan from Serbia. The Finnish club won 7-0 at home to KR from Iceland, while the Serbian champions smashed Valletta in Malta, 1-4.
Some games were played on Wednesday as well, the most interesting one being between Bulgarian and Croatian champions Ludogorets and Dinamo Zagreb. This was an official debut for the Bulgarian side in European competitions, as they played in the lower levels of local football until not long ago. They were really close to winning the match, after Marcelinho opened the score in the 67th minute, but a late equalizer from Ante Rukavina and some controversial refereeing brought the final score to 1-1.
Cypriot champions AEL Limassol won comfortably at home against Linfield, a 3-0 victory that more or less makes the return leg meaningless.
Maribor from Slovenia and Norwegian team Molde could also consider themselves qualified for the next round after comfortable wins against Zeljeznicar and Ventspils respectively.
The second leg of this Second qualifying round will be played next week, on the 24th and 25th of July.
All the results from the first leg:
Ulisses 0 – 1 FC Sheriff
Tallinna FC Flora 0 – 2 Basel
FK Neftchi 3 – 0 Zestafoni
HJK Helsinki 7 – 0 Reykjavik
Dudelange 1 – 0 RB Salzburg
Liberec 1 – 0 Shakhtyor Karagandy
Zilina 1 – 0 Ironi Kiryat Shmona
TNS 0 – 0 Helsingborg
Skenderbeu 1 – 0 Debrecen
Valletta 1 – 4 Partizan Belgrade
Shamrock Rovers 0 – 0 Ekranas
BATE Borisov 3 – 2 Vardar Skopje
AEL Limassol 3 – 0 Linfield
NK Maribor 4 – 1 Zeljeznicar
PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 1 – 1 Dinamo Zagreb
Buducnost P 0 – 2 Slask Wroclaw
Molde 3 – 0 Ventspils