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Historical!  Sturm in the round of 16 of the conference tournament

Historical! Sturm in the round of 16 of the conference tournament

SK Sturm in the Round of 16 of the Conference League. Promotion to the top 16 teams in this competition brings more sporting prestige to the people of Graz and brings €600,000 into the club's coffers; More income could follow if they succeed. Things are running like clockwork for the people of Graz in 2024 so far.

They achieved a historic achievement against Slovan Bratislava, against a team that is clearly at the top of the table in the Slovak Championship and has also shown international success so far. They gave it their all yesterday too, but more on that later. Sturm's players can be proud of themselves and can showcase their skills in at least two more matches on the European stage.

Comment: Every other international appearance should be seen as a bonus, not a burden

You will find out who will face Graz in the round of 16 in the draw that will be held in Nyon starting at one o’clock in the afternoon today. There are certainly well-known names on the list that Sturm could face as rivals: Aston Villa, FC Brugge, Fiorentina, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Lille, PAOK Thessaloniki, Viktoria Pilsen or Maccabi Tel Aviv. Each of these teams has quality. Match dates are March 7 and 14.

Sturm worked hard for the promotion. In the first leg, which ended 4-1 in Graz, the Graz team showed their playing skills, especially in the second half, thus laying the foundation for promotion. The return match, which was played yesterday at the beautiful National Stadium in front of 19,870 visitors, required a show of strength.

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Berez scored again

Sturm started the match without Manpreet Sakarya and Jusuf Gazibegovic, who were recently injured. Max Johnstone and David Schneig came into defence, Dimitri Lavallee was moved into midfield and Tommy Horvat had to make room. Graz had little access in the first 45 minutes. It was nothing fun, they fought. Johnston's shot (sixth) was the only offensive action until halftime. Sturm had a lot to do on defense, and Slovan presented himself strongly. Juraj Kuka's shot hit the crossbar in the 27th minute, while Veclav Jaros blocked David Strelic's shot in the 45th minute.

Whoever doesn't score goals gets them. That's what Sturm goalkeeper Mika Perez thought. He scored in the 52nd minute to give the team a 1-0 lead. Once again, the Black and Whites improved in the second half and took better control of the match. With the goal behind us, it was easier to play. Berez (61) could have added a goal. So did Simon Wlodarczyk (69), who replaced him. Horvat scored a goal, but it was not ruled out due to offside. On the other hand, the Slovaks never gave up, they had good chances and did not want to lose the second direct duel against Sturm. In stoppage time, Cesar Blackman received a red card after an emergency stop.

Sturm certainly didn't have the best game that evening. It was hard and effective work. But nothing else was needed that evening. Storm remains at home in Europe.