Rohan Ferguson (GK), Chris Casement, Mark Stafford, Ryan McGivern, Matthew Clarke, Niall Quinn, Bastien Hery (Daniel Kearns 90’), Jamie Mulgrew ©, Kirk Millar (Jordan Stewart 88’), Stephen Fallon (Andrew Mitchell 83’), Shayne Lavery
Linfield produced a magnificent performance and result in Podgorica, Montenegro on a proud night for the Club tonight as two goals from Kirk Millar gave The Blues a 2-1 away win in the Europa League Third Round first leg.
And they did it without stars Andy Waterworth, Joel Cooper and Jimmy Callacher, who all missed out with injury knocks. Those who came in did not put a foot wrong and proved the strength in depth that manager David Healy has at his disposal. When you consider that Stephen Fallon were yet to play a competitive match this season, it makes their performances all the more impressive.
While it was a memorable night for Linfield, things didn’t quite go to script in the early stages in Montenegro. Host side Sutjeska took the lead with just 11 minutes on the clock. Star player Kojasevic was the man who found the net when he buried a free-kick which was stationed right on the edge of the box, giving Linfield goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson no chance.
Linfield’s response was a good one and the tireless Shayne Lavery nearly levelled the scores when he connected with Niall Quinn’s low cross, but he saw his left-footed shot flash past the post.
The immense Mark Stafford produced a vital block soon after at the other end when he cleared a goal-bound shot off the Linfield goal line, a moment which epitomized his night.
The Blues drew level on 38 minutes. Shayne Lavery turned in the box and got a yard on the defender to get his shot away, and although the home goalkeeper produced a fine low save, winger Kirk Millar was following up to fire home the rebound.
Half Time: FK Sutjeska 1 – 1 Linfield
Linfield were thwarted on 62 minutes when Shayne Lavery showed blistering pace down the flanks to beat his man and we forced his way inside the box but his low shot was well saved at the near post.
The Blues were only thwarted temporarily, however. The crucial winning goal would arrive just two minutes later, and what a goal it was too. Healy’s men had looked threatening on the break all night and this time it would pay dividends. Bastien Hery spotted Kirk Millar storming through in space and the pass was perfect, the finish even better. A sumptuous dink over the onrushing goalkeeper to send the Linfield support of around 50 into raptures.
The heat required a water break for both teams on 75 minutes and from then on Linfield managed the game excellently, as it was hard to recall Rohan Ferguson being worked late on, thanks to the tireless work taking place ahead of him.
This fantastic victory means FK Sutjeska will need a minimum of two goals at Windsor Park next Tuesday in the return leg as the teams go head to head again for a place in the Europa League group stage play-off.
Man of the match - Shayne Lavery
Full Time: FK Sutjeska 1 – 2 Linfield