The long-awaited UEFA Champions League arrived as Valmiera FC stepped on the pitch in Ljubljana to play the first leg of the qualifying round one against Olimpija. Match settled for Valmiera playing as the number two side and ended in a loss – 1:2.
Jurgis Kalns had elected two use two defensive mid-fielders, both Adel Ghanem and Ivan Zhelizko started the match while Maksims Tonisevs surprisingly dressed as a left full-back. Carlos Olses started in goal, while Niks Sliede was the defensive partner of captain Daniels Balodis.
From the very first minutes, Valmiera drove a minivan, playing a defensive game, whilst looking for counter opportunities. Defense, yet the bus wasn’t parked on the pitch and the team didn’t sit down deep. Opponents didn’t offer a deadly effort whilst attacking so the score remained tied until the very end of the first half.
In the 42nd minute, an error near the penalty area gave Olimpija a chance to take the lead. Augustin Dofo robbed Adel Ghanem and entered the box and passed to Mustafa Nukic, who opened the scoring.
In the second half coach Kalns made no changes up until the 65th minute when Rifet Kapic made his Valmiera FC debut and Leo Gaucho followed him onto the pitch. Shortly after Alvis Jaunzems had to be taken off and Pape Yare Fall entered the game.
Seven minutes after both teams had made their first changes the score became 0:2. Once again out of nowhere a moment appeared and Rui Pedro bolted into the penalty area and received a cross that was sent past Olses.
Once things felt bleak a sign of hope arrived and a long-awaited goal arrived. A quick pass around near the host penalty area and Fall found a cross that met Meissa Diop – the young Senegalese player didn’t resist to score his first goal in his career for Valmiera FC.
A wake-up call that allowed Valmiera to stay in the fixture and most definitely fight for something in the remainder of the match, however, nothing occurred in five minutes of added time, and the game ended with a one-goal difference.
The second leg will be played next week when on Wednesday Olimpija will travel to Jana Dalina Stadium. The start of the game is scheduled for 18:00.