Lenient UEFA clear BATE star for Oriel showdown after headbutt
Bate Borisov star Vitali Rodionov will be available for tomorrow's Champions League showdown with Dundalk, even though he admitted wrongdoing after being accused of a headbutt on Dane Massey.
Rodionov, capped 46 times by Belarus, apologised to Massey through the club for his actions after BATE's winning goal in their 2-1 first leg success and UEFA's disciplinary committee have cleared him to play in the return.
Despite that setback, optimism levels remain high in Louth ahead of a €1.2m tie that would set up a less than intimidating third-round qualifier with either Videoton or TNS
Skipper Stephen O'Donnell believes that anything less than progression would be considered a huge disappointment, with the player miffed by feedback from the Belarusians which implied that Dundalk were better than expected.
The BATE camp made the mistake of thinking the League of Ireland side might be a similar standard to Northern Irish outfit Glenavon, who were comprehensively taken apart in Belarus a week previously.
"You don't want lads giving you pats on the back," he said. "The only way to really give it to them is to knock them out.
"Moral victories are no good anymore. You don't train January, February and March in the snow just to get moral victories. Someone has to go and get a result, basically. Someone has to go through and then hopefully in 10-15 years there might be a legacy and teams will give Irish teams respect.
"Europe is the only way the league is going to get any kind of respect. Even the Irish people don't rate the league so you've got to do something in Europe for people to sit up and take notice."
The Galwegian feels that local knowledge regarding the Oriel Park pitch and a more polished display will carry them through.
"It's there for us if we iron out of some things," he said. "I'll just put it like this: they're definitely beatable. They had a few good passages of play, some slick passing but we put some good moves together ourselves and we carved them open.
"It's all well and good talking, but we have to go out and finish the job.
"They won't be looking forward to coming to our place. Getting that crowd behind you gives you an extra half a yard. Plus, it's the pitch we train on every day and we're used to the dimensions - there's nothing foreign about it.
"Even with long passes and that, you've more of an eye. It's like playing a golf course where you know the hole. It does make a difference, it's a real advantage."
His bottom-line verdict, however, is that if Dundalk can find the balance between showcasing their attacking strength and minding the house, they will prevail.