By Akbar Mammadov
Azerbaijan’s Qarabag football club has qualified for the next round in the UEFA Champions League.
Qarabag won Moldova’s “Sheriff Tiraspol” with a score of 2:1 during the match held at the Republic Stadium named after Tofig Bahramov in Baku on August 26 as part of the matches of the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League for the season 2020/2021.
Opening the score at the 22nd minute of the match, Uros Matic opened the score with the penalty kick in favour of Qarabag. Near the end of the first half, Sheriff footballer Anatoly Abang was given a direct red card for his dangerous tackle against Qarabag’s stopper Badavi Guseinov.
The second goal of Qarabag came from the club’s top scorer Mahir Emreli scoring in a one-on-one position after the assist of Abdellah Zoubir, in 63’. The last goal of the match came from Sheriff’s forward Frank Castaneda in 78’.
During the match, the Moldovan club could make only six attempts, while Qarabag recorded fifteen attempts of which six were on target. Two yellow cards were shown by the referee: one to Qarabag’s midfielder Ismayil Ibrahimli and other to Sheriff’s defender Friday Obilor.
With this victory, Qarabag recorded its third win against Sheriff from five matches in the European competitions. It should be noted that Sheriff Tiraspol could win only one time, and one match was a draw. Overall, Qarabag scored seven times in these matches, and Sheriff only three.
The third qualifying round draw will be organized on August 31 in Switzerland’s Nyon city, which features 20 teams across the Champions Path and League Path. As Qarabag has been placed in the pot of seeded teams, five potential rivals of Qarabag for the next round are from unseeded teams pot: Molde (Norway), Midtjylland (Denmark), Ferencváros (Hungary), Omonia (Cyprus) and Dinamo Brest (Belarus).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this season all third qualifying round ties will be single-leg matches behind closed doors. Ties will take place on 15 or 16 September, with extra time and a penalty shoot-out if required. Winners advance to the UEFA Champions League play-offs; all losing sides progress to the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
The game was assigned to a team of referees from Ukraine. The main referee Mykola Balakin will be assisted by Ukrainian Victor Matyash and Sergey Pristupa. The fourth referee will be Andrei Kovalenko.
In the first qualifying round, Qarabag beat Sileks (Northern Macedonia) with four unanswered goals.
Formed in 1987, Qarabag football club originates from Azerbaijan’s Armenian-occupied Agdam town that has turned into a “ghost town” due to the scale of its destruction during the war but has not played in its hometown since 1993 due to occupation. The club is now based in capital Baku.
Qarabag’s manager is Azerbaijani football player Gurban Gurbanov who has been managing the club since 2008. He is the most successful Azerbaijani football manager in the European competitions with 35 wins.
It should be noted that on May 2014, beating the Netherlands club Twente, Qarabag qualified for the 2014-2015 UEFA Europa League group stage for the first time in its history and became the second Azerbaijani team reaching the European competitions group stage. In 2017, Qarabag became the first Azerbaijani club to qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League after beating Danish club Copenhagen and drew in the Group C alongside Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Roma.
The crest on the club emblem is the symbol of the Karabakh, which was produced by English designers and based on the Karabakh horse and stems from the club's nickname "The Horsemen".
Akbar Mammadov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AkbarMammadov97
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