Sturm hold BATE in Belarus

FC BATE Borisov 1-1 SK Sturm Graz BATE were unable to find a winner after centre-back Marko Simić cancelled out Manuel Weber's early opener for the visitors in Minsk.

Sturm's Giorgi Popkhadze (centre) challenges for the ball
Sturm's Giorgi Popkhadze (centre) challenges for the ball ©Getty Images

FC BATE Borisov and SK Sturm Graz will resume their UEFA Champions League play-off tie on level terms following a draw in Belarus.

Bidding to reach the group stage for the first time since 2000, Sturm silenced the home crowd inside 12 minutes through Manuel Weber's confident finish. Marko Simić powered in a header just before the hour but Viktor Goncharenko's men must score in Austria in eight days' time to retain any hope of gracing the group stage for the second time.

If BATE were seeking a positive start to erase the disappointment of their shock weekend loss to FC Minsk then the visitors served up more trouble with Weber's opener. Slipped in by Imre Szabics's defence-splitting pass, the Sturm captain advanced into the penalty area and beat Aleksandr Gutor with ease.

A goal down, BATE suffered another setback two minutes later when Vitali Rodionov received a booking which rules him out of the return. Undeterred, the Belarusian champions, who enjoyed 62% possession in the first half, continued with their measured approach play and would have levelled had Yegor Filipenko not missed the target after Dmitri Baga's free-kick dropped kindly.

That was the cue for Szabics to head wide following a swift Sturm counterattack. His chance was followed three minutes before the break by Milan Dudić, all of four metres out, somehow failing to connect with Andreas Hölzl's deep delivery.

Perhaps mindful of that reprieve, BATE began the second half confidently and equalised with their first effort on target, Simić rising unmarked to head in Baga's accurate set piece. Buoyant again, BATE received a reminder of Sturm's threat when Roman Kienast flashed a header across goal. Despite forcing the issue thereafter, the home side were unable to force Sturm goalkeeper Christian Gratzei into his first meaningful save of the night.