Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Kirk Millar 8', Navid Nasseri 36', Jordan Stewart 53'
Ballymena United Scorers :
Paul McElroy (PEN) 38', Leroy Millar 90+2
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Quinn, Mulgrew, Pepper
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Conor Pepper, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher, Niall Quinn, Kyle McClean, Jamie Mulgrew © (Bastien Hery 40’), Kirk Millar, Navid Nasseri (Ryan McGivern 85’), Jordan Stewart, Andy Waterworth
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore, Ross Larkin, Daniel Kearns, Brandon Doyle, Matthew Shevlin
Ballymena United Team :
Ross Glendinning (GK), Jim Ervin © (Kenny Kane 80’), Kofi Balmer, Ciaran Kelly, Ross Redman, Ryan Harpur (Jude Winchester 63’), Leroy Millar, Steven McCullough (Owen McKeown 87’), Paul McElroy, Shay McCartan, Ryan Waide
Ballymena United Subs not used :
Jordan Williamson (GK), Tony Kane, Beattie, Addis
Linfield defeated Ballymena United at the Ballymena Showgrounds on matchday two of the Danske Bank Premiership season this evening after a strong showing. Due to Covid restrictions, no away fans were in attendance, however the game was broadcast live by BBC Sport and it didn’t disappoint!
Just like in their other games so far this season, the Blues took an early lead. Navid Nasseri continued his fine run of form with an assist as he took on Jim Ervin down the left before his low cross was received by Kirk Millar at the back post before a swivel and shot low into the far corner.
The hosts had some decent chances early on, too. Twice in quick succession, United midfielder Leroy Millar rose well to meet corners. First of all, the big midfielder must have thought he’d scored when he powered a header towards the top corner, only for Kyle McClean to leap like a salmon to complete a superb goal line clearance. Soon after, he met another corner and this time Chris Johns made a good outstretched save.
Navid Nasseri was desperately unlucky with a 25 yard curling effort which left the woodwork shaking as the helpless Ross Glendinning looked on. However, the in-form winger pulled off what he’d threatened to do a short time earlier. This time he ran at Ervin before opening his body up on the edge of the box and fired a beautiful strike into the top corner to double Linfield’s lead on 36 minutes.
Ballymena United didn’t feel sorry for themselves and showed a good reaction to pull a goal back two minutes later. Shay McCartan, recently signed for United from Bradford City, surged into the box before being barged in the back by Jamie Mulgrew and the referee pointed to the spot. Paul McElroy stepped up to fire home a good penalty to Johns’ left. If Mulgrew wasn’t disappointed enough to give away a penalty and receive a booking for it, he unfortunately picked up a knock a short time later and had to be replaced by Bastien Hery.
Half Time: Ballymena United 1 – 2 Linfield
Linfield, wearing their purple and orange away kit for the first time, started the second half on the front foot and after a spell of corners and possession in the final third, they got their reward on 53 minutes. As is the case nine times out of ten, Kirk Millar’s delivery was bang on the money as Jordan Stewart ghosted in at the back post to send a deft header beyond Ross Glendinning in the United net.
Jimmy Callacher and Mark Haughey had threatened with headers before up the other end Linfield failed to clear a corner and Shay McCartan latched onto the ball before firing a low shot just wide of the post from 20 yards.
Ballymena United netted in injury time when Leroy Millar headed in from a cross after a spell of pressure, but there was no need for Linfield fans to chew their nails as it turned out to be the last kick of the game.
The second half was much quieter than the first by way of chances, but it was slightly more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, in terms of how the Blues managed the second half. The Sky Blues put on a good showing themselves and played with a back four, rather than the back three with wing backs system they’ve mainly deployed in recent years under boss David Jeffrey.
It’s two wins from two for Linfield and they face another tough test next week at home to Crusaders, but they have looked sharp in the opening weeks of the season and also have the likes of Christy Manzinga, Shayne Lavery and Stephen Fallon to return at some point from injuries. That said, they might have to be patient when that time comes, because that front four of Waterworth, Nasseri, Stewart and Millar having been so impressive.
Full Time: Ballymena United 2 – 3 Linfield