Mainz - 1. FSV Mainz 05 coach Kasper Hjulmand vowed his side will get better and better after they successfully mastered their first European test of the season on Thursday night.

Making their return to the European stage after a three-year absence, Mainz established a slender 1-0 advantage over Asteras Tripolis FC to take with them into the second leg of their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie in Greece next Thursday.

Helau Europe


There may have been more excitement before kick-off than there was throughout the majority of the 90 minutes at the Coface Arena, but what mattered most was the result. Before the match, there was a rush on sales of t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Hola, Hello, Helau." as fans got behind their team's bid to show their colours proudly around Europe over the coming months, using a typical Mainz greeting alongside its Spanish and English translations.

On the pitch, meanwhile, last season's top scorer Shinji Okazaki carried on from where he left off at the FIFA World Cup with Japan, coolly finishing past visiting keeper Kostas Theorodopoulos just before the interval. Mainz will now head to Greece confident of securing their place in the play-off round - one stage further than they managed in the 2011/12 campaign.

Sharpening up


"We got a bit lucky, but we are still very early in our preparations for the new season," said coach Kasper Hjulmand, not wanting to fool anybody about a performance he knows can be improved on. "We still need a few weeks to develop, but we're getting better by the game."

The 05ers will not be taking anything for granted ahead of the return leg, however. Three years ago, they had 40 shots on goal against Gaz Metan Medias, but it was the Romanian side who clinched their place in the next round following a penalty shoot-out, despite only having six goalbound efforts over the two legs.

Slowly but surely


That is something Mainz have worked hard on so far this summer, which is why Okazaki's goal out of nothing was such a welcome sight for the majority of the 18,287 fans packed inside the Coface Arena. "From now on, we are going to get better – physically, tactically and technically," added the Danish coach. "This win gives us self-confidence for the second leg in Tripolis."

By then, the former FC Nordsjælland coach may know more about which system he would prefer to employ this season. After starting with a 4-3-2-1 on Thursday, he later reverted to a back three, subsequently "gaining more control" of the proceedings. Improvements can also be expected from the likes of Junior Diaz, Gonzalo Jara, Ja-Cheol Koo, Jo-Hoo Park and Okazaki, who have all only just returned to training after a post-World Cup vacation.

And with all the pieces of the Mainz jigsaw slowly fitting into place, sales of commemorative t-shirts are set to continue apace without too much risk of them becoming little more than memorabilia within the coming months.