Soccer-Steaua move closer to Champions League third round

LONDON, July 16 (Reuters) – Former European champions Steaua Bucharest scored three first-half goals to take a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League second round qualifier against Macedonian side Vardar Skopje on Tuesday.

Czech champions Viktoria Plzen won 4-3 against Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, while Bate Borisov, the Belarus club who reached the group stage of last season’s competition, lost 1-0 at home in the first leg against Kazakh side Shakhtyor IK.

Steaua opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Cristian Tanase powerfully sidefooted into an empty net after Adrian Popa hit the post and Mihai Pintilli added a second nine minutes later when he headed home at the far post from a corner.

The hosts wrapped up the scoring in injury time at the end of the first half when a shot from Popa came back off the post and hit Vardar keeper Igor Pavlovic on the back and rolled over the line.

Plzen fell behind early in the second half as Tomislav Tomic put Zeljeznicar ahead, but the hosts struck back with a goal from Marian Cisovsky and two from Daniel Kolar.

A 78th-minute free header for Vernes Selimovic pulled one back for Zeljeznicar before Frantisek Rajtoral bundled home a fourth for Plzen.

The Czechs may come to rue their poor defending as Sead Bucan almost immediately reduced the visiting side’s deficit to one goal with five minutes to play.

Bate, who finished third in a group that contained Bayern Munich, Valencia and Lille last season, were undone by a 48th minute goal from Sergei Khizhnichenko for Kazakh champions Shakhtyor IK.

Elsewhere Slovenian side Maribor drew 0-0 at Maltese outfit Birkirkara and Hilal Soudani scored twice as Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb won 5-0 against Luxembourg’s CS Fola Esch.

Georgian side Dynamo Tbilisi thrashed EB/Streymur from the Faroe Islands 6-1, Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova drew 1-1 at home to Montenegro’s Sutjeska Niksic and Lithuania’s Ekranas Panevezys lost 1-0 home to FH from Iceland.

The second legs will played on July 23 and 24 with teams needing to get through a third qualifying round as well as the playoff round in order to reach the lucrative group stage. (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Alan Baldwin)

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