AHMED ELMOHAMADY last night revealed how a first taste of European football at the KC Stadium has left everyone at Hull City hungry for more.
The Tigers, after seeing off FK AS Trencin in nail-biting fashion on Thursday night, were yesterday handed a two-legged meeting with Belgian Cup winners, Lokeren, in the Europa League play-off qualifying round.
Considering a trip to the Low Countries was one of five that City could have been handed with the other possible destinations being Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Croatia and Romania, Steve Bruce will be delighted that his side have been spared an arduous journey for the first leg at Lokeren’s Daknamstadion on August 21. The return will take place at the KC a week later.
For Elmohamady, the decisive second game being scheduled for home soil is a bonus with the Egyptian, who netted City’s first ever goal in Europe when cancelling out Trencin’s early opener, having relished the atmosphere against the Slovakians.
He said: “I enjoyed playing in Europe, and especially scoring. It was a great experience for all the players. And the fans, they were class (on Thursday night).
“I said to you (after the first leg) in Slovakia last week that we needed the fans to fill the stadium. And that is what they did. Absolutely fantastic. It definitely helped and it would be great to have the same again in the next round.
“That is why I say the draw doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who you get. We just want to get through, that is all we want. And enjoy the experience.”
Lokeren, who finished fifth in the Belgian League last term, are taking part in the Europa League – or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup – for an eighth time.
The club’s best performance came in 1980-81 courtesy of a place in the last eight, while two years ago they were knocked out in the play-off qualifying round by Czech Republic side FC Viktoria Plzen.
Last March’s Cup triumph, when they beat Zulte Waregem in the final, was the second time in three years that Lokeren had lifted the trophy.
Hull, therefore, are likely to be in for another stern test and Elmohamady believes the 2-1 aggregate victory over Trencin in the last round will stand Bruce’s men in good stead.
He added: “I thought our performance was professional. We showed our experience. No-one panicked, even when we were behind.
“Our experience from last year helped. Look at the FA Cup semi-final (against Sheffield United) and how we coped with going 1-0 down and then 2-1 down. We showed a lot of maturity.
“Then there was the FA Cup final. It was all great experience and it has given us a different mentality.
“When you are 1-0 down – and this time with an away goal against us, something we hadn’t faced before – we showed our strengths. This is a good group and we have some fantastic players.
“Those with the experience (of European competition) just told us to keep going. We missed four or five chances in the first half and the result could have been very different.
“But we kept going and got our reward at the end.”
Asked if Trencin had surprised the Tigers by taking the game to them from the kick-off at the KC, Elmohamady replied: “The main thing is it was job done, that is what it was all about. We had to get through to the next round and we did that.
“It was a tough game. Europe always brings difficult games against difficult teams and this was definitely one of those. Teams have different mentalities, with many starting from the back. They like the tika-taka.
“But I felt our class showed, in the end. The lads worked hard to get a result. I was really happy to score the first goal, especially as it was Hull City’s first goal in Europe.
“A header, too. The cross was great by Robbie Brady and that made all the difference. Having Robbie back was a big thing for us.
“We like having him in the team. He is a good player.”
As City fans frantically try to book ferries, flights and trains to Belgium for the first leg, Bruce and his players have to forget all about Europe.
Elmohamady added: “Now, we are looking forward to the Premier League and our first game at QPR (a week today). The start of the league season is almost here and everyone is very excited.
“Europe is great but our next match is the Premier League so that is what matters.
“I do believe that these two games in Europe will help us. Match fitness is a big thing. We are still in our pre-season. That only really finishes next week when we go to QPR.
“But games against tough teams in Europe are fantastic for us and should help.”
As a consequence of City being in European action, the league trip to Aston Villa has been put back a day to Sunday August 31. The game will kick-off at 1.30pm.
Hull’s match on the weekend after the first leg – a home clash with Stoke – had already been moved to Sunday August 24.