Yet again last night we witnessed further proof that Cymru Premier teams are no longer a pushover in Europe.
One man made all the difference in Connah’s Quay Nomads’ 2-0 defeat on their Champions League debut – FK Sarajevo’s razor-sharp front man Benjamin Tatar, scorer of both goals for the Bosnia and Herzegovina visitors.
Twice only was the Nomads defence found wanting – and on both occasions they paid dearly.
In the 16th minute, Ivan Jukic’s long midfield delivery caught the back-line napping and Tatar raced clear, evaded keeper Lewis Brass’s challenge and found an empty net.
Then on 65 minutes, just as Quay were getting on top, Tatar took advantage of a mix-up between the home centre-backs to speed into the box and slot beyond the keeper.
In the Cymru Premier, Andy Morrison’s side might have got away with those errors, but in Tatar they were up against a striker of a different class.
Not an international surprisingly, but a consistent goal scorer in his team’s back-to-back league title successes.
Had Nomads been able to produce the same quality of finishing, they would have forced extra time at least.
Michael Wilde missed with a header from point blank range while the scoresheet was still blank and skipper George Horan blazed over with just the keeper to beat when a consolation goal would have breathed new fire into the Welsh challenge.
Such fine margins…
As Horan said after the game, it’s a sign of the level Nomads are now at that these fine margins make such a difference.
Apart from the goals, there was very little between the teams, despite the fact Sarajevo (112) are ranked 57 places above Nomads (169) in the latest Uefa coefficient ratings.
While the visitors were slick on the ball, some of their play acting left much to be desired.
Oscar-standard rolling around on the turf if the opposition went anywhere near them did not make for pleasant viewing.
Yet when something really nasty was dished out – Hrvoje Milicevic’s off-the-ball assault on Wilde in the box in the second half – the referee did nothing.
Milicevic’s brutal challenge was worthy of a red card – or at the very least a yellow.
Every Nomads player did a solid job on the night, with new signing Aeron Edwards a stand-out performer for me.
Priestley Farquharson was majestic at the back for the most part, while Callum Roberts produced some classy play down the left.
Overall, a fantastic effort by a Nomads side which had not played a competitive game in five months and were facing opponents three matches into their league season and unbeaten.
Nomads now enter the Europa League where a good result or two is well within their capabilities based on Wednesday night’s performance.