In the first leg of the second UECL qualifying game, played at the Gyirmóti Stadion in Győr, Hungary, two goals scored in the second half by Neman Grodno propelled them to a 2-0 victory over Balzan.
The match was played in a neutral venue since teams from Belarus are unable to host football matches due to the war in Ukraine and Neman Grodno opted to play their home matches in Hungary.
The Balzan side had their central defender Andre Prates suspended, following his sending-off in last week’s second-leg tie against Domzale. Triston Caruana and Aleksa Andrejic, who started in the previous game against Domzale, were replaced Ryohei Michibuchi and Nikola Zerjal in the starting line-up.
Neman Grodno, on their part, were featuring in their first ever second round appearance of a European competition having eliminated Vaduz in the first round.
In the 15th minute, Neman Grodno had the first chance of the game with Yegar Zubovich missing the target.
Despite taking the incentive Neman Grodno failed to make the most of their opportunities.
In the 31st minute, Oleg Evdomikov saw his close-range shot denied by Balzan’s goalkeeper Danilo Golovic.
In the 38th minute, Balzan tested Neman’s goalkeeper Konstantin Rudzenok when a long-range freekick taken by Angel Torres’ was destined into the net but the goalkeeper had to stretch to divert into a corner just in time.
The hosts replied with header by Yegor Zubovich but once again, Danilo Golovic was alert to avert the danger and preserve the goalless stalemate.
In the 40th minute, Peter Olawale latched onto a neat through ball by Angel Torres but rushed his decision, trying to beat Neman’s goalkeeper from a tight angle.
At the break, Balzan made one change with Aleksa Andrejic coming on for Nikola Zerjal.
Aleksa Andrejic immediately had the first opportunity to find the net but he missed the target.
Moments later, Roman Paparyha had an effort from the left-hand side that sailed over the Balzan side cross bar.
In the 54th minute, Neman took the lead. PAVEL SAVITSKI saw his first attempt blocked by Balzan’s defence before finishing off the rebound to the far post where Danilo Golovic could not reach.
On the hour mark, Balzan substituted Ryohei Michibuchi with midfielder Triston Caruana as they were looking to win the midfield.
Balzan tried to push up their efforts up front and in the 63rd minute Angel Torres had another opportunity, but once he failed to level terms.
In the 70th minute, Jake Grech saw his long-distance effort sailing just over the cross bar.
A minute later, Balzan replaced Peter Olawale with Manyualek Aguek in search of some inspiration in the final third.
Manyualek Aguek almost scored with his first touch of the ball but could not capitalise from inside the small area.
Nonetheless, Neman scored their second goal in the 85th minute when SERGEI KAPROVICH made the most of a turnover to beat Danilo Golovic from inside the area.
NEMAN GRODNO : Konstantin Rudzenok, Yegor Parkhomenko, Roman Paparyha (Andrei Vasilyev 77’), Yurii Pantia, Oleg Evdokimov (Maksim Yablonski 73’), Yegor Zubovich ( Maksim Krautsou 85’), Ivan Sadaunichy, Alimardon Sukurov, Sergei Karpovich, Mikhail Kozlov (Aleksei Legchilin 85’), Pavel Savitski (Andrei Yakimov 77’).
BALZAN :Danilo Golovic, Ivan Bozovic, Samir Arab, Paul Fenech (Marcus Grima 90’), Angel Torres, Peter Olawale (Manyluak Aguek 71’), Ryohei Michibuchi (Triston Caruana 59’), Nikola Zerjal ( Aleksa Andrejic 46’), Jake Grech, Nikola Braunovic, Momcilo Raso.
Referee: Ivar Orri Kristjansson (ISL)