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Comeback against Grodno ‘not impossible’ says Balzan coach Spiteri

Balzan coach Oliver Spiteri speaks to a press conference ahead of today;’s match against Neman Grodno. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Grodno lead 2-0 ahead of second tie in Malta

Balzan shocked observers all across Europe when they beat Slovenian side NK Domzale 4-1 at the Centenary Stadium in the UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round. Now down 2-0 to Belarusian team Neman Grodno in the second round, Balzan coach Oliver Spiteri believes his clan can do it again as the team plays at the Centenary Stadium again on Tuesday (kick-off: 7.30pm).

Speaking at a pre-match press conference on Monday, Spiteri emphasised that the team was not happy with last week’s first-leg result.

“Obviously, we were very disappointed with the result after the 2-0,” Spiteri told the Times of Malta.

“In the second half of the match, they pressed us more than we expected, and the first goal could have ruined us as they have a team which is very tactically disciplined. I believe we made a good reaction after the goal though, and we pushed away the pressure onto the midfield. However, then they scored the second goal, and that practically changes all of your plans.”

Asked about the team’s plans for Tuesday’s match, Spiteri believes that while it is ‘do-or-die’, the team has nothing to lose.

“We are in a moment where we have nothing to lose – we know our strengths. I think that with our potential if tomorrow we are disciplined like last Thursday, I don’t think that -even though it will be difficult – it should be impossible,” he explained.

In the first round, Domzale – a side much better quoted on paper – were shocked at Ta’ Qali and Spiteri there will be no such surprises against Grodno.

“In the first round we had the element of surprise – no one knew our potential before the first game and that’s where my players were smart enough to put on a good performance and pushed for more until the final minute,” Spiteri highlighted.

“That element of surprise is gone now as everyone knows what we’re capable of, as do Grodno who practically closed off all the space for us. But the atmosphere we have in the dressing room is one of positive anger. I can assure everyone that we will show determination on the pitch because we believe we can go through, even if it is hard.

“We still believe that if we did it against Domzale, why not now as well?”

Balzan are set to be with a full squad after recovering Andre Prates who was serving a suspension, and Spiteri is hoping for difference-makers among his starters and substitutes against a Grodno side that has already played 15 matches in their local championship.

“Physically they are better as they’ve spent these past four weeks in Hungary as they can’t go back home as their country is too close to the war. So, they’ve been analysing their football for four weeks,” he admitted.

“The only difference between them having played 15 matches and us coming from a training camp -thanks to our president – and playing friendlies and five other matches against high-level opponents is the fact that they play more games than us. This is an advantage for them as the more matches you play, the more the tempo of the game improves and we’d be better equipped for these games.”

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