Blues, Crues and Derry through but Glens make exit

Paul Heatley slots home the only goal as Crusaders defeated FC Haka at Seaview
Paul Heatley slots home the only goal as Crusaders defeated FC Haka at Seaview

Linfield, Crusaders and Derry City progressed to the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League but Glentoran went out on penalties.

The Blues lost 1-0 to Vllaznia but won 3-2 on aggregate while Paul Heatley scored the only goal as Crusaders beat FC Haka 3-2 over the two legs.

Sadio Dialo’s goal gave Derry a 1-0 aggregate win over HB Torshavn.

But there was agony for Glentoran as they levelled late against Gzira United but losy 14-13 in a dramatic shootout.

Heatley sends Crues through

Paul Heatley celebrates with Crusaders fans after scoring the winner at Seaview
Paul Heatley celebrates with Crusaders fans after scoring the winner at Seaview

Crusaders advance to face Norwegian side Rosenburg in the second round of the Europa conference league courtesy of a narrow win at Seaview.

Talisman Heatley struck the winner on the 73rd minute after Haka defender Anthony Herbert was caught in possession on the half-way line. Heatley nipped in and coolly slotted past a helpless Aatu Hakala to give the hosts a deserved lead.

It was the Crues who had the opening chance of the evening after Ross Clarke’s dangerous cross was flicked onto the back post by the towering Adam Lecky, but the hosts failed to take advantage of the former Ballymena United man’s ball to the back post.

The hosts may have edged the first half but it was the Finnish side who almost took the lead when Logan Rogerson snuck in at the back post to volley at Jonny Tuffey’s goal from six-yards out but was denied by a last-ditch block from Jarlath O’Rourke.

Stephen Baxter’s men started the second half with intent with Jordan Forsythe volleying wide and Philip Lowry having his effort saved off the line minutes from the restart.

Teemu Tainio’s side failed to trouble a resolute Crusaders defence with their best effort in the second half coming from the lively Stavros Zarokostas, who fired over under no pressure from 12 yards out.

Blues advance despite defeat

David Healy watched his Linfield side progress to the second qualifying round
David Healy watched his Linfield side progress to the second qualifying round

Despite a 1-0 second-leg defeat to Vllaznia, Linfield sealed their passage to the next round of Europa Conference League qualifiers by way of a 3-2 aggregate victory.

David Healy’s side took a two-goal lead to Albania but Bekim Belaj’s 54th-minute header loosened the Blues’ grip on the tie.

Mehdi Coba had a goal ruled out in the first half after being deemed to have controlled the ball with his arm before poking it past Chris Johns.

It was one-way traffic throughout the night and Belaj could well have added a second in the final quarter of an hour, only to see his header this time bounce the wrong side of the post.

But despite failing to register a shot on target at the Loro-Boriçi Stadium, Linfield’s 3-1 victory from the first leg in Belfast provided them with a cushion to advance.

They will find out their opponents for the next round on Monday.

Dialo does the business for Derry

Delight for Sadio Dialo after netting for the Candystripes against HB Torshavn
Delight for Sadio Dialo after netting for the Candystripes against HB Torshavn

Dialo scored the only goal of the game on the 23rd minute when he nodded home Michael Duffy’s corner from the back post.

Ruaidhri Higgins men dominated the tie and could have taken the lead earlier when Ben Doherty’s clever pass played Jamie McGonigle through on goal, but his resulting strike was wide of the left-hand post.

Doherty himself had a chance on the 30th minute but his strike from range curled wide of the post. The ex-Larne and Coleraine midfielder was in action again early in the second half but once again his effort was wide.

The hosts came close again when McGonigle connected with Mark Connolly’s looping pass but Bjarti Mork’s outstretched leg denied the Candystripes a more comfortable lead.

It was a nervy last 15 minutes at the Brandywell with HB Torshavn dominating proceedings.

Adrian Justinussen’s shot looked destined to level the game but Brian Maher produced a superb save to deny the chance and to guarantee it will be Derry City who face KuPS in the next round.

Oval agony for Glens

Glentoran suffered European heartache as they lost 14-13 in a penalty shootout to Maltese side Gzira United.

As in the first leg, the east Belfast side paid the price for missing a penalty in regulation time as the tie at the Oval finished 1-1 on the night after Glentoran equalised deep into stoppage time.

Glentoran started brightly with a header from Junior and a Bobby Burns shot forcing Gzira keeper David Cassar into early action.

Glentoran were awarded a penalty on 18 minutes after Rory Donnelly was brought down in the area.

Bobby Burns assumed the penalty-taking duties after Junior’s miss in Malta last week but he, too, failed to find the target as he dragged his effort wide of the post.

While Glentoran dominated possession, they found it difficult to carve out clear-cut openings and they were made to pay when the visitors grabbed the lead on 66 minutes.

They broke quickly and released Thiaguinho down the left flank and when the Brazilian’s effort came back off the inside of the post, Lucas Macula was on hand to poke home the rebound from close range.

Cassar made saves from Junior and Daire O’Connor while Jay Donnelly had a headed goal ruled out after the referee’s assistant deemed that the ball had been out of play before brother Rory crossed it.

Glentoran’s chance looked to have gone when they had a second effort ruled out when a James Singleton header was deemed to have been offside but eventually the home side forced an equaliser in the most dramatic of circumstances 13 minutes into stoppage time.

Fuad Sule’s ball forward was headed back across goal by Aidan Wilson and the ball bounced off Rory Donnelly into the path of Burns, who steered a shot home from close range.

Teenager Rhys Walsh’s shot thumped off the crossbar in extra time with Aidan Wilson’s follow-up effort beaten away by Cassar.

Even when it went to penalties, the drama wasn’t over as the two sides successfully converted 27 consecutive penalties between them.

It was Glentoran’s teenage substitute Leon Boyd who was the unlucky player who finally failed to continue that sequence when his effort was saved by David Cassar.

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