Resilient Rabotnichki shows it is no fluke

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Ilijoski after his goal; photo: TelegrafIlijoski after his goal; photo: TelegrafA single goal by Bazhe Ilijoski midway through the 1st half proved to be enough in leading Rabotnichki to a 1:0 win over Trabzonspor.

Three home games in the Europa League qualifications and three wins. The most difficult came today after Rabotnichki managed to narrowly upend Trabzonspor 1:0. The lone goal came midway through the 1st half by veteran striker Bazhe Ilijoski.

If you look at the budgets of these two teams, Rabotnichki doesn't even deserve to be on the pitch with Trabzonspor. One or two of the high priced foreigners on Trabzonspor make as much money as the whole Rabotnichki team. However, the game is played on the field, not on paper.

Rabotnicki fielded the same lineup as last week's 2:0 victory over Jelgava. Daniel Bozhinovski started in goal, Goran Siljanovski, Milan Ilievski, Kire Ristevski and Mite Cikarski made up the defense from right to left, Stephan Vujčić and Milovan Petrovikj opened in defensive midfield, Chuma Anene and Suad Sahiti began on the wings, while Bazhe Ilijoski and Marjan Altiparmakovski found themselves in attack.

Rabotnichki's startersRabotnichki's starters

The first chance of the game came in the 6th minute via Milan Ilievski. He attempted a powerful free kick that was punched out for a corner kick by the Trabzonspor keeper. Rabotnichki opened brightly as they were not intimidated by Trabzonspor. They played their game and were rewarded with a goal in the 23rd minute.

Midfielder Milovan Petrovikj released Bazhe Ilijoski with a pass that barely beat the offside trap. Ilijoski then did the rest with a good finish. The keeper looked to be in a good position, but Ilijoski got the ball over him and into the back of the net.

Video of the goal by Ilijoski:

Trabzonspor, on the other end, looked underwhelming at the start, but did improve as the 1st half progressed. They started to pile on more pressure after Rabotnichki's goal, but their attack looked to be out of rhythm and lacked timing.

The tempo to open the 2nd half was pretty slow. The first dangerous moment did not come until the 58th minute when Ilijoski had a good chance. On a counter attack, Ilijoski made a long run and seemed headed for a great opportunity, but a Trabzonspor defender made a great sliding challenge. Ilijoski, who is not fast to begin with, started to tire as the run got deeper and his marker caught up with him before he can unleash the shot.

Two minutes later, in the 60th minute, Trabzonspor nearly made it 1:1. However, their big name striker Óscar Cardozo sent his header wide from a great position inside the area. Cardozo, in particular, was really wasteful as he could never get going in this game. He didn't play in the previous round for Trabzonspor, so maybe he will need more playing time to rediscover his form. Rabotnichki will be hoping that doesn't happen until after the return leg.

After Rabotnichki took out Ilijoski for Dushko Trajchevski in the 64th minute, that singled that the hosts would now be defending their lead. Trabzonspor would start to dominate possession, but they could not break down the resolute Rabotnichki defense.

On one occasion in the 73rd minute, following a free kick, Rabotnichki almost extended the lead, but Chuma Anene's header went just wide of the goal. The keeper was frozen, so that would have been a goal if it was on target.

Highlights of the game:

In the end, Rabotnichki held on to the 1:0 win to head into next Thursday's return leg with a slim advantage. Just as importantly, Rabotnichki was able to hold a clean sheet, something that is crucial considering the value that is placed on away goals.

Trabzonspor has very noisy fans, so the atmosphere and environment will be very difficult next Thursday. However, Rabotnichki will gain some confidence from today's game and look to continue its journey by putting together another gutsy performance in the return leg.

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