The Macedonian representatives in the Europa League qualifiers this year did not have a great start to the first round recording one draw and two defeats.
photo by Filip Zdraveski: moment of Akademija Pandev – Zrinjski
Shkupi was the first club to play today in their away encounter against Armenian side Pyunik. Shkupi started the game poorly, causing a foul in the penalty box already after 4 minutes of play, which brought the Armenian hosts a 1:0 lead. However, things turned around after the 25th minute when Bajrami delivered a free kick from a long distance. His cross was missed by all the players in the penalty box, but the ball eventually landed in the back of the net to equalize the score. That goal gave Shkupi some confidence boost and they started getting more active, which eventually resulted in a second goal shortly before the halftime, when Darko Ilieski scored with a header after a corner kick. The second halftime continued even better, as in the 60th minute, Bajrami scored yet another goal from a free kick, this time with a big help from the Armenian goalkeeper who made a very poor safe. And just when it seemed like Shkupi has finished the job and will finish with a big away win, the team seemed to totally collapse in the final 10 minutes, which lead to Pyunik scoring 2 more goals within 5 minutes to equalize the score to 3:3. In the end, a draw was an objective outcome considering the play and chances, and it is a score that gives Shkupi solid chances in front of the return game in Skopje (especially due to the three away goals scored), but it still remains disappointing that Shkupi didn’t manage to hold on to their comfortable lead and conceded 2 goals in the final minutes of the game.
Gyumri City stadium in Gyumri
Pyunik – Shkupi 3:3 (1:2)
Goals: 4′ (pen) Erik Vardanyan, 80′ Maksim Zhestokov, 85′ EdgarManucharyan – 26′, 60′ Muharem Bajrami, 43′ Darko Ilieski
Shkupi: 31. Thulio; 4. Gjorgievski, 32. Ilieski, 6. Adili, 34. Ismaili; 5. Bajrami (C), 17. Diack (53′ 8. Jusufi), 21. Bilali, 19. Goudiaby (69′ 7. Veliu), 11. Junior (83′ 16. Krivanjeva); 99. Jurina.
Yellow cards: Diack, Ismaili (S)
Red cards: /
Referee: Luca Barbeno
In the second game of the day, Makedonija Gjorche Petrov faced their opponent – another Armenian club, in the name of Alashkert. Similar like Shkupi, Makedonija GjP also started the game poorly and conceded an early goal, but they fought back and managed to equalize through Jasharoski in the 52nd minute. However, despite continuing to attack and aim for another goal, Makedonija GjP failed to score again and ended up conceding two more goals until the end of the game to suffer a disappointing 3:1 loss, despite the rather equal forces shown on the playground. This result leaves Makedonija GjP a tough (but not impossible) job to defeat Alashkert with at least 2:0 at the return leg in Skopje next week.
FFA Academy stadium in Yerevan
Alashkert – Makedonija GjP 3:1 (1:0)
Goals: 16′ Nikita Tankov, 66′ Danilo Sekulić, 82′ (og) Bianor – 52′ Alen Jasharoski
Makedonija GjP: 12. Jovanovski; 13. Pecov, 4. Mishevski (69′ 6. Lichina), 3. Bianor, 2. Fernnado Augusto; 10. Robinho, 17. Filipovski, 7. Bozhinovski (C), 24. Tanturovski, 23. Padu (89′ 9. Trajkoski); 11. Jasharoski.
Yellow cards: Lichina, Filipovski (M)
Red cards: /
Referee: Nathan Verboomen
Finally, our last participant in the Europa League qualifiers – Akademija Pandev, had a very disappointing debut at home against Bosnian side Zrinjski who won 3:0, leaving Pandev’s club with no realistic chance for reaching the second round and securing an encounter against the Dutch club Utrecht. Zrinjski seemed to dominate the game throughout the entire match, leaving Akademija Pandev very little chances and hope for a positive result. It remains to be seen if the blue-white boys from Strumica can repair their impression in the away game in Mostar, to at least show that this was just a bad day and they have the potential to compete better.
Todor Proeski Arena in Skopje
Akademija Pandev – Zrinjski 0:3 (0:2)
Goals: 12′ Irfan Hadžić, 28′ Staniša Mandić, 55′ Miljan Govedarica
Akademija Pandev: 1. Čubraković; 5. Iliev, 4. Dimov, 6. Kostov, 3. Atanaskoski; 22. Tomovski, 8. Stoilov, 23. Stojkoski (66′ 20. Temelkov); 10. Milovanovikj (77′ 18. Velinovski), 14. Doriev, 19. Pandev (C) (68′ 17. Krstovski).
Yellow cards: Dimov, Stoilov (A)
Red cards: /
Referee: Kai Erik Steen