Quite the shock went through football-loving Flanders after Zulte-Waregem’s abysmal performance against Shakhtar Salihorsk, the never-heard-of runners-up in Belarus. No one had dared to expect anything else than a win, but to see them battered 2-5 at their home ground was a surprise indeed.
Four minutes in, Galyuza surprised keeper Bossut, and a mere ten minutes later, Salihorsk right-back Matveychik netted a beauty, blasting it in the top corner. The game had not gone on for 15 minutes, or Zulte were already two goals behind. Not much later, the Belarusians came face to face with the keeper once again, this time failing to convert.
A few moments before the break, things seemed to clear up a bit when newcomer Glynor Plet scored for Zulte-Waregem. Only minutes later though, he was sent off after a dangerous tackle, and alongside him any hope of winning the match. The equalizer came close in the final stages of the first half, but Salihorsk sealed the deal in extra time through a well-placed shot from Stargorodski.
The second half, Zulte actually managed to play better with a man light, closing the gap to one goal after Conte wonderfully curled it past Kotenko. Salihorsk was not about to give away their victory, and Yanush knocked the home team out. To make matters worse, Zulte lost a player to an injury. With all three changes spent, they had to endure the final ten minutes, in which Salihorsk rubbed salt in the wound with a fifth goal, scored by Guruli in the last minute.
Zulte-Waregem’s ambition to thrive in Europe have been shattered, and the return game seems nothing but a formality anymore. Salihorsk on the other side have made themselves known in Belgium and beyond, taking a huge step towards their first European campaign.