On Tuesday night at Windsor Park, Linfield beat Montenegro champions FK Sutjeska 3-2 to go through to the Europa League Play Offs for the first time ever.
David Healys’ men went into the game with great confidence after beating FK Sutjeska 2-1 on the away leg last week and sealed their place in the Play Off’s winning 5-3 on aggregate overall.
This is the first time Linfield have won back-to-back European fixtures since they reached the European Cup quarter-finals in 1967. Mark Stafford put Linfield ahead just seven minutes into the game with a back post header from a Kirk Millar corner. FK Sutjeska leveled the score on fifteen minutes from a set piece which saw striker Bojan Bozovic flick a header past Linfields’ keeper. Linfield’s Shayne Lavery responded quickly when he deftly robbed the ball off Sutjeskas’ keeper who was 30 yards off his line and skillfully got it past the defender also.
Linfield were further bolstered just after the half hour when centre-half Aleksandar Sofranac was sent off after committing two fouls in as many minutes and picking up two yellow cards for his efforts. However it wasn’t all plain sailing for Linfield as Sutjeska came out fighting in the second half and saw the efforts of the ten men set up rewarded when Bojan Bozovic equalized when he flicked home a header from a corner.
Sutjeska continued with the pressure and Rohan Ferguson had to make a couple of key as the visitors pressed for the goal which would see them win on away goals. Luckily for Linfield, substitute full back Joel Cooper made the biggest impact of the night when he sent a low cross to Matthew Clarke who banged it into the net securing Linfield’s place in the Play Offs.
This makes Linfield the last team Irish team standing in European competition and they’re only one win away from a group stage spot.
Next up for Linfield is Azerbaijan Champions Qarabag who knocked Dundalk FC out of the Champions League second qualifying round earlier this month, 4-1 on aggregate. Linfield will host them at Windsor Park next Thursday 22nd August before travelling to Azerbaijan the following week.
We wish Linfield the very best of luck next week!
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