There is nothing ordinary about Qarabag Football Club in Champions League. So far, every game presents a historical achievement. Qarabag played their first Champions League game against Chelsea, then scored their first goal against Roma, and now, got the first point against Atletico Madrid. Even if fans expected Qarabag to steal a point in one of the toughest groups, hardly anyone could predict that it would happen in the first three games. Gurban Gurbanov’s team exceeded all expectations and managed to upset the Spanish side. However, the game has left fans with more than a satisfying first point.
Defensive football can win trophies. Ask Jose Mourinho, if you don’t believe. But weaker teams tend to favor defensive style also. The idea is to sit back and wait for the opponent to make a mistake, so you start a counter-attack. Teams with good defensive can almost guarantee themselves a point playing this way, or as they call it “parking the bus”. The expectation was that Qarabag would do so. Eight shots on goal, in addition to forty-six percent possession, proves the contrary. From the very start, Qarabag looked as an improved team comparing to even the previous game with Roma. They looked more comfortable and confident. If before every player tried to solely perform their job and hardly left their zone, today’s game showed more organic style. The defense was at its height thanks to the constant support from the midfielders and even the attackers. Of particular note is Mahir Madatov, who worked hard in all areas of the pitch. In the midfield players looked quite harmonious, constantly moving the ball. Qarabag’s pass accuracy (81%) (https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1238330/TeamStatistics/Europe-UEFA-Champions-League-2017-2018-Qarabag-FK-Atletico-Madrid) is quite impressive, considering Atletico Madrid’s talent in the center. Moreover, both wings and midfield constantly joined strikers on the attacks, which challenged Atletico’s defenders many times. Gurban Gurbanov’s brilliance was clearly revealed in this game, as he managed to incorporate his ideas into the game against a much stronger opponent.
The second half looked great for Qarabag. They controlled the ball, defended confidently and created several moments. However, everything became complicated when the French referee, Ruddy Buquet, showed a red card to Dino Ndlovu for “simulation”. Atletico’s defender Diego Godin made a clear contact with Qarabag’s striker and watching the replay the foul is obvious. Even if Ndlovu was simulating, he is no Neymar or Suarez, so he cannot get away with it. Left with ten men, Qarabag still managed to attack and move the ball. A great help came from Ibrahim Sehic, the goalkeeper who had a nearly perfect game and played at the highest level possible. After the halftime Qarabag was a better team, without a doubt. If it was not for the sent-off, who knows, maybe they would be celebrating first three points. In any case, Qarabag showed that they are willing and capable of competing with European top-teams. They proved that their fans can always expect more.
by Murad Gafarov