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Alex Hleb's Kazakh blow threatens dream Arsenal reunion

Former Arsenal star Alex Hleb was on the wrong end of a shock defeat in the very earliest Champions League qualifying round.

If Arsenal fans had a gripe about having to negotiate a Champions League qualifying round next month, they may at least want to count their blessings.

16 sides began their journeys to attempt to reach the group stages yesterday, with the preliminary rounds boasting teams of the stature of FC Sheriff of Moldova and FH Hafnarfjordur of Iceland, and another 16 will face off tonight, including Celtic.

Also in there were BATE Borisov, who made it all the way to the group stages last season where they were placed in the group with Bayern Munich.

BATE Borisov are the team where former Arsenal man Alexander Hleb plays his football, and has done since deciding to rejoin the Belarusian club in 2012.

Tuesday was four years to the day that he was sold by Arsenal to Barcelona, a move which turned sour as he was very quickly found to be surplus to requirements and sent on a variety of loans, including an ill-fated spell at Birmingham City.

Hleb in action for Borisov last night, in a home encounter against Shakter Karagandy, reigning champions of Kazakhstan, who presently sit 5th in this season's table at just over the halfway point during the season.

And the away side sprung a shock result, winning the first leg 1-0 through a goal from Kazakhstan international striker, 21-year-old Sergey Khizhnichenko.

It leaves BATE with a daunting task ahead of them with the away encounter to come, and their plans of a cash windfall from reaching further stages at risk.

The winners of this round go onto another qualifying round, before the final qualifiers when seeded Arsenal come in.

If Alexander Hleb had his eye on a dream reunion with the Gunners, and one more chance to play at the Emirates, last night was a significant step in the wrong direction.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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