Bursaspor coach ErtuArul SaAlam was delighted after his players answered his call to action by beating FC Twente 3-1 in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League play-off first leg – in truth, the Turkish side could have won by more.
“On every occasion in the lead-up to the game we emphasised that advancing to the Europa League group stage is a primary target for us,” SaAlam said. “During the pre-match team talk I told my players that Twente were tough opponents but not a team who are impossible to knock out.”
The message was clearly taken on board, though Bursaspor had to come through adversity as Nacer Chadli scored for the Dutch visitors against the run of play just after the half-hour mark. “We had four clear chances inside the opening 15 minutes and although we went 1-0 down we were always in the game,” said SaAlam. “Our players did their utmost to level and succeeded before half-time.”
Pablo Batalla did the job on 40 minutes with a sweetly struck far-post volley, causing the pendulum of this play-off encounter to swing. Eight minutes after the restart Stanislav Sestak put the home side in front and for much of the second half it was a case of hanging on for Twente. They could not prevent Batalla making it 3-1 in the closing exchanges, however, the No10 glancing a header in at the near post.
“The second half was even better [than the first],” said SaAlam. “Two goals, lots of opportunities and we never gave the opposition chances to score. We were denied by the bar as well. We are happy with a 3-1 comeback win.” The experienced coach is not preparing for the group stage just yet, though – next Thursday’s second leg in Enschede will present its own obstacles.
“The first match is over and we have an advantage, but it is only that. If we don’t take the job seriously, we know too well what might happen. We’re just enjoying our first-leg win and concentrating on Sunday’s match against Istanbul BB. There’s plenty of time to think about the second leg against Twente.”