FK Borac Banja Luka
Europa Conference League
Banja Luka, Bosnia
Zaven Hovhannisyan (ARM)
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Manzinga, M.Clarke, Fallon
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Trai Hume, Michael Newberry, Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Niall Quinn (Navid Nasseri 83’), Jamie Mulgrew ©, Stephen Fallon (Conor Pepper 78’), Cameron Palmer, Kirk Millar, Christy Manzinga (Billy Chadwick 48’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Matthew Williamson (GK), David Walsh (GK), Sam Roscoe, Ahmed Salam, Andrew Clarke
FK Borac Banja Luka Team :
Bjoan Pavlovic (GK), Marko Jovanovic, Dino Coric Milan Vusurovic 75’), Amar Begic, Dorde Cosic, Aleksandar Vojnovic (Enver Kulasin 67’), Aleksandar Subic, Stojan Vranjes © (David Cavic 74), Dejan Meleg, Goran Zakaric (Ante Zivkovic 77’), Moraitis Panagiotis (Jovo Lukic 54’)
Linfield showed great discipline and spirit to finish what they started last week as a 0-0 draw in the heat of Bosnia tonight saw them go past Borac Banja Luka in a 4-0 aggregate victory which sends the Blues through to face Fola of Luxembourg in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League, with the first leg to take place at Windsor Park next week.
Despite a number of absentees through injury and other personal reasons – including manager David Healy – Ross Oliver led the team and ensured the Blues wouldn’t let their lead slip and defended well against a team whose manager had resigned the previous day.
Christy Manzinga looked a threat on the counter in the first half by taking up some good positions, but Linfield couldn’t really work it to him. His determination did always bring a moment of joy as he won the ball high up before giving it to the advanced Matthew Clarke who played a one-two with Cameron Palmer before being stopped by a list ditch-tackle.
Defensively, Linfield were comfortable enough in their first half – probably more so than they’d have anticipated – and perhaps that is a credit to their impeccable discipline. Borac Banja Luka are a direct side who like to put balls in the box but Linfield stood tall.
The hosts’ one big chance in the first half fell for the man they’d want on the end of it – their captain Stojan Vranjes. He was picked out in space in the box by a cross from the left and his half-volley from around 12 yards cracked off the post. Chris Johns may well have got a fingertip on it and if he did, it’ll go down as a fine save.
Half Time: FK Borac Banja Luka 0 – 0 Linfield
There never really was a moment where the hosts threw caution into the wind and went all guns blazing. Perhaps if Vranjes had found the net with his first half effort it may have gave them a bit of belief, but Linfield were pretty comfortable all night, with the second half a case of more of the same.
The only disappointment for Linfield on an otherwise positive night came a few minutes into the second half when Christy Manzinga went off holding his hamstring. That’s worrying given his well-documented struggles to get a run last season and his brilliant performances in Europe in recent weeks. He was replaced by Billy Chadwick who made his debut, worked hard and held the ball up well.
Chris Johns was excellent in the Linfield goal, making a few great saves in the second half. The Bosnian champions took on a number of shots from distance, firstly Dejan Meleg running towards the Linfield box before firing a low shot at goal from 20 yards which was well saved by Johns low to his right side.
An even better save from Johns came on 79 minutes. A cross came in from the right and striker Jovo Lukic got a strong head on it, diverting it towards the corner only for Johns to spring across to his left and push it wide. When the resultant corner came in it was well connected with at the back post on the volley and again the Linfield goalkeeper was equal to it with a strong save to his right.
In one final quest to win the game even though the tie was out of reach, a lovely ball was chipped over the top to Ante Zivkovic who controlled it brilliantly and just as he was about to pull the trigger he was denied by the excellent Michael Newberry who nipped in to make a goal-saving intervention.
Unlike last week, it wasn’t a night for high-tempo, thrilling football. It was about heart, discipline and resilience and Linfield showed that in abundance with everyone doing their bit for the cause.
Full Time: FK Borac Banja Luka 0 – 0 Linfield