Who would have thought it? Two match days in and the Belarusian minnows, BATE Borisov, are at the summit of their Champions League group. Of course, there is a lot of football to be played yet but the club are completely oblivious to it all, coated in a world of delirium.
BATE, led by young and promising coach Viktor Goncharenko, are not complete strangers to the world’s most prestigious football tournament, though. They appeared in the event last season, playing in a group consisting of Spanish giants Barcelona, Italian powerhouses AC Milan and Czech side Viktoria Plzen. As most media and journalist alike predicted, they finished last with just a mere two points.
This term, however, is a altogether different story. The Belarusian champions have engineered a simply outstanding start, and now it’s important they sustain it if progression to the quarter-finals are going to be turned from a dream to reality.
Why have they made such a good start then? What is the special ingredient that was evidently missing last time out? It’s hard to put a finger on it. Perhaps the training regime has been significantly developed for the set of players to acclimatise to the physicality and pace of the Champions League? Or just maybe luck is on their side? But one thing is for sure, there has been nothing too fortuitous about the club’s recent performances.
Goncharenko’s troops were placed in a tricky opening match with French outfit Lille – who finished 3rd in Ligue 1 last campaign – but surprisingly they left France with all three points in what was a convincing, ruthless and stylish display. Alyaksandr Valadzko, Vitali Rodionov and Edhar Alyakhnovich were all on target. It built the foundations for their next game which, scheduled for Tuesday evening, would be against German giants Bayern Munich at the Dynama Stadium in Minsk.
Sure, BATE had enjoyed a pleasing start. But their were question marks over whether they would be able to stay competitive against a side of the calibre of Bayern. Could they secure back-to-back Champions League victories?
The statistics were all in the Germans’ favour though, entering the clash with a nine-game winning streak in all competitions. There was fears that Bayern may become a tad complacent, and that is exactly what happened, as Aleksandr Pavlov struck in the 23rd minute to pretty much everyone’s surprise.
And as the match wore on, BATE became more and more confident. They were resolute in defence, smooth in midfield and inevitably more goals arrived later in the second half. Vitali Rodionov and Brazilian midfield engine Renan Bressan netted, before French winger Franck Ribery scored in stoppage time, to cap off what was a wonderful, historic victory. A victory that will live long in all BATE’s fans’ memories.
But, as the club’s star midfielder Aleksandr Hleb explains, they will cherish the win but must remain focused as a tough test against Valencia looms.
This is a sensational result for us. We will celebrate a bit but we need to keep working hard.
Aslong as the team continue to keep working as a unit, be ruthless in front of goal and believe that they can win every match – whatever the standard of opposition – BATE Borisov have every chance of making further Champions League history.