Ruaidhri Higgins believes Derry City has 'fighting chance' of making history after narrow loss in Kazakhstan
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A thunderous second half strike from full-back Roman Asrankulov handed Tobol the advantage going into next Thursday's tie in south Dublin while Brian Maher produced two stunning saves in either half to keep the result to the minimum.
Michael Duffy came so close to levelling the match during the final 10 minutes and Higgins' troops can take encouragement from a brave display 6,000km from Foyleside in the sweltering summer heat of Northern Kazakhstan.
The City boss believes his team now have given themselves a 'fighting chance' of making history and becoming the first Derry City team to progress past a third round European tie where either Viktoria Plzeň (Czech Republic) or Gzira United (Malta) await the winners.
"I felt there wasn't much in the game at all," said Higgins. "I felt they put us under a wee bit of pressure as the home team early in the game and we weathered the storm.
"As the game settled we settled. I thought it was a very, very even contest. It was an absolute wonder goal that put them in front but coming home with their travelling, it gives us a real fighting chance of going through to the playoff.
"And that's what we wanted coming out here. We wanted the tie to be alive coming home.
"We give ourselves real hope and optimism for next week and that's what we wanted coming home.
"Hopefully we can take a huge travelling contingent from Derry down to Dublin and get as much red and white in Tallaght as possible. It would give the players a huge lift. Let’s see if we can do something spectacular and get ourselves through.”
Austrian referee Stefan Ebner dished out six yellow cards to the Kazakhs who were clever in breaking up Derry attacks but Tobol skipper Muzhikov could've been shown red for a two-footed lunge on Adam O'Reilly under the nose of the match official in the first half.
He escaped unpunished but Higgins was expecting a 'physical' encounter and was pleased with how his team stood up to the challenge.
"I thought particularly in the second half we controlled a lot of the game and looked better. We had one or two good opportunities ourselves to equalise but I'm really proud of the efforts of our players and what they put into the game.
"It's been a long few days but I'm extremely proud and it sets it up nicely now for next week.
"In relation to their physicality we knew they would be a real physical team. We expected that and knew what was coming but our players stood up and looked after themselves.
“I thought particularly in the second half we put in a really courageous performance and passed the ball better than we did in the first half and had a few opportunities to go home with a 1-1 draw.
"We give ourselves real hope and optimism for next week and that's what we wanted coming home."
Before that return leg in Dublin, Derry must ready themselves for a difficult league clash at home to Drogheda as they resume domestic duties with much at stake.
"We understand that Sunday is now a huge game, a really big game. We'll need a real vocal home support behind us on Sunday to really get behind the players and the team and see if we can get a big three points. We'll be ready to go when we get back. "