Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Christy Manzinga 43', Andy Waterworth 79'
Linfield Yellow Card :
Cliftonville Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Michael Newberry, Ross Larkin (Mark Stafford 80’), Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Jamie Mulgrew © (Mark Haughey 80’), Cammy Palmer, Navid Nasseri, Jordan Stewart, Christy Manzinga, Andy Waterworth (Shayne Lavery 82’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore, Niall Quinn, Kirk Millar, Joel Cooper
Cliftonville Team :
Declan Dunne (GK), Seanna Foster (Kris Lowe 77’), Ryan O’Reilly, Odhran Casey, Stephen McGuinness, Chris Curran (C), Barry Coffey, Ronan Doherty, Daniel Kearns (Michael McCrudden 45’), Ryan Curran (Joe Gormley 60’), Paul O’Neill
Having clinched the 55th Irish League title in the Club’s history in a 1-1 draw at Coleraine on Tuesday night, Linfield lifted the title after today’s final league game against Cliftonville.
Linfield started on the front foot and probably should have went ahead after six minutes. Christy Manzinga pounced to dispossess Cliftonville defender Ryan O’Reilly but when the French attacker went through on goal his shot from ten yards was well blocked by home goalkeeper Declan Dunne.
The Reds also showed their attacking intent when midfielder Ronan Doherty got down the left side following a one-two and when he picked out Paul O’Neill at the front post with a low cross, the striker fired into the side netting.
Manzinga was denied by Declan Dunne again after Navid Nasseri showed good footwork before slipping the attacker in, but his shot from the left of the box seemed to be well blocked by the goalkeeper’s chest and went behind.
Jordan Stewart also threatened, turning in the box from a Cammy Palmer pass but his clipped effort towards the far top corner flashed just past the upright. Until the opener it was mostly a case of half-chances, as Matthew Clarke denied Paul O’Neill with a great block.
Two minutes before the break Christy Manzinga put Linfield ahead. Much of the credit will go to Jamie Mulgrew who stepped in to make a great midfield interception before slipping Andy Waterworth through when the striker sprung in behind. Waterworth had time and space but was denied by the impressive Declan Dunne, who couldn’t do anything when Christy Manzinga made himself well placed to score the rebound for his third goal of the season.
Half Time: Cliftonville 0 – 1 Linfield
A neat move almost brought Linfield a second goal a minute into the second half but it was chalked off for offside. Navid Nasseri found Jordan Stewart with a neat flick and Stewart’s low cross found Waterworth who helped it on to Manzinga at the back post, but the French striker was denied by the flag.
The Reds almost levelled on 67 minutes. Seven minutes after returning from a broken elbow which kept him out from January, Reds legend Joe Gormley dispossessed Jimmy Callacher to go through on goal but his powerful strike was well saved by the right hand of Chris Johns. The danger wasn’t over and Paul O’Neill set Michael McCrudden for a low drive which was also well dealt with by Johns who had another good game.
Then on 79 minutes came an emotional moment as legendary striker signed off with a goal. It was emotional for so many reasons. Not only was a Linfield legend doing his thing for the last time in the blue shirt – his eight-day old daughter Mia was in the stand behind the goal he scored in. The striker finished clinically with a half-volley on his left foot from Matthew Clarke’s cross before celebrating with a kiss of the Linfield badge.
The closing minutes were also emotional for the small Linfield support in the away end, who were permitted entry thanks to a great sporting gesture by Cliftonville FC. Waterworth went off to a standing ovation, and outgoing stalwart defenders Mark Haughey and Mark Stafford also came on to great receptions, all fully deserved.
Christy Manzinga threatened again late on and his endurance deserved praise as he was picked out nicely by Mark Haughey and when the striker hit at a half-volley it flashed narrowly wide of the far post.
Great to sign off with a victory after a really tough, but equally a great double-winning season where Linfield equalled the world record of 55 league titles. Well done to David Healy, his staff and the team who had to dig so deep this year.
Full Time: Cliftonville 0 – 2 Linfield