UEFA Champions League
Matthew De Gabriele (MLT)
Linfield Scorer :
Chris Shields (PEN.) 64'
Zalgiris Vilnius Scorers :
Saulius Mikoliunas 17', Ogenyi Onazi 43'
Linfield Yellow Card :
Chris Shields and Michael Newberry
Zalgiris Vilnius Red Cards :
Elhadji Pape Diaw 63', Karolis Uzela 88'
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Michael Newberry, Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke (Jordan Stewart 45’), Trai Hume, Niall Quinn (Cameron Palmer 71’), Chris Shields, Jamie Mulgrew © (Navid Nasseri 71’), Stephen Fallon, Kirk Millar, Christy Manzinga (Andrew Clarke 85’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Matthew Williamson (GK), David Walsh (GK), Conor Pepper, Sam Roscoe, Ross Larkin, Adam Carroll
Zalgiris Vilnius Team :
Edvinas Gertmonas (GK), Saulius Mikoliunas ©, Elhadji Pape Diaw, Nemanja Ljubisavljevic, Joel Bopesu, Milen Gamakov (Karolis Uzela 85’), Ivan Tatomirovic, Francis Kyeremah, Ogenyi Onazi (Ovidijus Verbickas 77’), Jakub Sylvestr (Josip Tadic 68’), Hugo Videmort
Zalgiris Vilnius Subs not used :
Tomislav Duka (Gk), Vilius Piliukaitis, Meinardas Mikulenas, Gustas Jarusevicius, Marko Karamarko, Gustas Jarusevicius
Linfield exited the Champions League this evening with two moments of real quality in the first half ultimately putting the tie beyond them as Lithuanian champions Zalgiris Vilnius progress to the second qualifying round.
On the night, Trai Hume was making his European debut, Chris Shields made - and scored on - his home debut, Matthew Clarke moved up to third in Linfield’s list of all-time appearances in Europe, Andrew Clarke made his Linfield debut and last but certainly not least, Kirk Millar made his 300th appearance for the club.
Linfield started on the front foot and threatened inside a minute. Christy Manzinga ran in behind and pulled off a stylish rabona cross but the Lithuanian champions were able to scramble it away at the second attempt.
A few minutes in, Zalgiris tested Chris Johns for the first time as they broke following a defensive slip and worked the ball to Ogenyi Onazi whose low strike was comfortable enough for the ‘keeper.
A massive let-off followed for Linfield as French talisman Hugo Videmont turned brilliantly behind Trai Hume and squeezed a low cross in for striker Jakub Sylvestr who hooked a shot onto the roof of the net from close range.
Linfield almost had the start David Healy was dreaming of when Jamie Mulgrew showed great feet and teed up Matthew Clarke who hammered a great cross right across the face of goal but Christy Manzinga couldn’t quite get there. Agonisingly close to a breakthrough which would have blown the tie wide open.
A Zalgiris corner fell kindly for midfielder Milen Gamakov who should have done better as he lashed well over, but then the visitors did take the lead on 17 minutes. A corner was headed out but not fully cleared and Zalgiris captain, the former Hearts right back Saulius Mmikoliunas latched on to it with a crisp half-volley into the corner.
The match quietened down until around five minutes before the break. Zalgiris goalkeeper Edvinas Gertmonas was alert as Linfield staggered back from a corner and he kicked quick up to winger Kyeremeh on the break. He crossed for Jakub Sylvestr who will be disappointed to head over in the middle.
Two minutes before the break the tie looked all but over as Zalgiris added a second to make it 5-1 on aggregate. To make it a tougher pill to swallow, it came during a good Linfield spell and moments after Christy Manzinga almost reached a whipped cross across goal, this time by Kirk Millar. It was another real quality goal from the Green Whites as Nigerian international midfielder Ogenyi Onazi – who previously spent four seasons with Lazio in Italy’s Serie A – sent a rocket of a shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
Half Time: Linfield 0 – 2 Zalgiris Vilnius
Jordan Stewart’s introduction for the second half gave Linfield a lift and the Blues went close again as Trai Hume headed just over from a Kirk Millar corner a few minutes into the second half.
Up the other end, the visitors showed their individual qualities again with a great cross from the experienced captain Mikoliunas, but Kyeremeh headed wide of the post.
Despite now needing four unanswered goals, Linfield continued to probe and they got one back on 63 minutes. Niall Quinn’s deep free-kick was headed past the goalkeeper at the back post by Jimmy Callacher, only for Senegalese defender Elhadji Pape Diaw to cynically handle it to keep it out. He received a straight red card and Linfield were awarded a penalty. Chris Shields stepped up to the spot on his home debut and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, tucking the ball into the bottom left corner to give Linfield a glimmer of hope.
The Blues continued their strong spell after that, but they needed to convert it into a goal if they were to pull it back. They were unlucky to get another goal when Jordan Stewart put in a great cross from the left and Niall Quinn’s shot from inside the box drew a good acrobatic save by the goalkeeper who tipped it over the crossbar. After that, the Blues struggled to create clear-cut openings and lacked a bit of cutting edge in the final third of the pitch.
Time was running out and defensively Zalgiris were comfortable enough, although they were not helped by Karolis Uzela who was only on the pitch for three minutes after coming on as a substitute before he received a straight red for a horror challenge on Trai Hume. The visitors had to play the last five minutes with nine men. They didn’t seem to enjoy any kind of contact when they were challenged, yet put in some strong challenges and picked up numerous bookings. They won’t mind, though, because it helped them manage the game out and progress to play the Hungarian champions.
There wasn't an awful lot between the teams in the two legs, but the difference was Zalgiris' quality in front of goal and now the Blues prepare to take on Bosnians, Banja Luka, in the 2nd round of the new UEFA Conference League at Windsor next Thursday 22 July.
Full Time: Linfield 1 (2) – 2 (5) Zalgiris Vilnius