Azerbaijani FC ‘Qarabağ’ hammers Georgian FC ‘Samtredia’ in the UEFA Champions League qualifier
The Azerbaijan football champions, FC ‘Qarabağ’, secured a 5:0 victory against FC ‘Samtredia’ Georgia in the first match as part of the UEFA Champions League qualifier, paving its way to the next qualifying round of the tournament.
FC ‘Qarabağ’ reached the game in a rather dubious form, having lost all preparatory matches, some of them by a large margin. However, Azerbaijan’s most popular club fans put their faith in its victory and the bleachers of the Baku-based Tofiq Bahramov Republican stadium were almost three-quarters full.
There could have been more spectators if it hadn’t been for an incident involving FC ‘Qarabağ’s’ fan-club right ahead of the match. An ‘Imarat’ fan-club member hadn’t been allowed to put a huge poster with political content up on the bleachers. The poster commemorated Zakhra Guliyeva, a 2-year-old girl who was killed as a result of shelling by Armenian troops a week ago. The inscription on the poster read as follows: “You will be made liable for every drop of blood shed.” However, the police banned fans from putting up the poster, as they rightly believed it would be followed by sanctions on part of the Union of the European Football Associations, be it a penalty or disqualification. All members of the ‘Imarat’ fan-club left the stadium in protest.
‘Imarat’ is a name of a multi-purpose stadium in Agdam, which was destroyed during the Karabakh war in 1993. FC ‘Qarabağ’ is now based in the Guzanli settlement, located in Azerbaijan’s controlled section of Agdam district, in lower Karabakh. However, international-level matches are held in Baku.
The Georgian team’s fans didn’t attend the match either. There was only one Georgian flag, hung in the stadium’s press box. The Georgian fans probably decided not to come to Baku after an incident two years ago, when, according to Azerbaijani media reports, some political and nationalist slogans were voiced on the Tbilisi stadium’s bleachers, whereas after the game, Azerbaijani fans were attacked and beaten by the ‘Dynamo-Ultras’ club fans.
Despite the high score, the game itself was pretty boring. Both teams made numerous mistakes which could be attributed to their poor shape at the beginning of the season. The Turkish referee didn’t fare much better, having awarded two disputable penalty kicks against Georgia. To the credit of Gia Tsetsadze, the head coach of FC ‘Samtredi’, he didn’t complain about the poor refereeing, saying that ‘we lost not due to the referee, but rather because FC ‘Qarabağ’ was stronger’.
A return match as part of the South Caucasus derby is scheduled for 18 July, in Georgia.