BATE Borisov bamboozle Athletic Bilbao


BATE Borisov produced a surprising – but deserved – 2-1 win over faltering Athletic Bilbao in the first Champions League game at the Borisov Arena. Denis Polyakov gave BATE a 19th-minute lead which was added to by Aleksandr Karnitski and, although Aritz Aduriz pulled a goal back just before half-time, Athletic could not find an equaliser. It was quite a comeback for the Belarusian side after their 6-0 hammering by Porto in their continental opener two weeks ago. Athletic, by contrast, prop up the group with just one point. Benat Etxeberria fired wide from long range for Athletic before Anri Khagush's effort at the other end was blocked by Mikel San Jose. But BATE took the lead when Nikolai Signevich flicked on Maksim Valodko's corner and defender Polyakov was on hand at the far post to tap in. Signevich fired over and then volleyed against a post, in between which Benat was again off target at the other end. Karnitski shot wide for BATE but he doubled their lead five minutes before half-time when his shot took a deflection off Bilbao full-back Andoni Iraola and left keeper Gorka Iraizoz helpless. Athletic desperately needed to get a foothold in the game before the interval, and they did so courtest of Aduriz. The striker was set clear by Iker Muniain's marvellous through-ball and turned past Polyakov before finishing calmly. That was not enough to deter Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde from making a double change at the interval, Markel Susaeta and Oscar De Marcos replacing Mikel Rico and Ibai Gomez. But Signevich and Volodko threatened for BATE, denied by Iraizoz and San Jose respectively, before Susaeta's shot was blocked by Evgeni Yablonski. Volodko and Karnitski went close and Mladenovic was denied by another San Jose block, while Benat's free-kick hit the wall as the game swung from end to end. Iraizoz saved from Aleksandr Volodko and Signevich, the latter a good opportunity, while Ander Iturraspe was off target with an acrobatic effort from Susaeta's corner. Forward Gaizka Toquero replaced Iraola in Athletic's final roll of the dice and their best chance came and went in the 82nd minute, when Susaeta's angled drive was well saved by Sergei Chernik and from the resulting corner, Aduriz headed wide.