Match Details
Season :
2022/2023
Date :
4th August 2022
Competition :
Europa League
Venue :
Windsor Park
Referee :
Marco Di Bello (ITA)
FC Zürich Scorers :
Alyegun Tosin 8', Wilfried Gnonto 63'
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Ben Hall, Sam Roscoe, Cameron Palmer, Stephen Fallon
FC Zürich Yellow Cards :
Donis Avdijaj, Lindrit Kamberi
Teams
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Daniel Finlayson, Ben Hall, Sam Roscoe, Matthew Clarke (Ethan Devine 86’), Chris Shields, Kyle McClean (Cameron Palmer 68’), Stephen Fallon, Jamie Mulgrew © (Jordan Stewart 68’), Eetu Vertainen (Chris McKee 68’), Robbie McDaid (Joel Cooper 52’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Williamson, Walsh, Pepper, Newberry, Quinn, Archer, Clarke
FC Zürich Team :
Yanick Brecher (GK) (C), Lindrit Kamberi, Mirlind Kryeziu, Fidan Aliti, Ole Salnaes, Antonio Marchesano, Cheick Conde, Nikola Boranijasavic, Jonathan Okita, Alyegun Tosin, Wilfried Gnonto
Report
Linfield tonight suffered a first leg setback in their UEFA Europa League Third Round Qualifier against Swiss champions FC Zurich at Windsor Park, going down by two goals to nil.

It was a hard-fought match, fairly even on the balance of play with Linfield shading possession (53 percent), but as often is the case in European fixtures, fine margins made the difference. The Blues will be disappointed not to have made more of two major chances and seven set-piece opportunities delivered into the box, but it was a generally strong performance.

Linfield started well and proactively, with Daniel Finlayson advancing down the right before whipping in a cross to the back post in search of fellow wing-back Matthew Clarke, but a slight touch from the head of Zurich defender Kamberi was enough to deny the Blues.

It was disappointing for David Healy’s men to then go behind on eight minutes. It was a goal with a stroke of class about it, although the Blues felt they could have done slightly better in the initial battle. The ball broke for a forward whose classy backheel sent Jonathan Okita through and he showed composure to prod the ball into the far corner.

FC Zurich – who were eliminated from the Champions League Qualifiers by Qarabag with a 5-4 aggregate score – hadn’t been in great form of late but the opening goal visibly lifted them as they had a strong ten minute period after the goal. That was until two good Linfield chances came along in quick succession. Firstly, Kyle McClean’s inswinging free-kick from the left fell kindly at the feet of Robbie McDaid who had to get a shot away quickly, but he was denied at close range by the goalkeeper.

Soon after, McClean whipped in another good delivery which the goalkeeper couldn’t come for. This time it was a corner, floated to the back post and met by a strong header by Sam Roscoe to turn it back across goal, but there was no Linfield man on hand as Zurich hooked the danger clear.

A lot of FC Zurich’s threatening play came through teenage sensation Wilfred Gnonto, and the Linfield faithful may look back on this as a night they witnessed a future star in action. The 18 year-old forward became Italy’s youngest ever goalscorer when he scored against Germany in June and is tipped for greatness in the game by Italy boss Roberto Mancini. His pace threatened many times, as did his trickery, on one occasion cutting inside the box and seeing a left-footed strike beaten away by Chris Johns.

Half Time: Linfield 0-1 FC Zurich

Magnificent defending from Stephen Fallon kept Zurich at bay early in the second half. Typically, Gnonto’s pace bursting away with the ball from a Linfield free-kick opened things up and it looked like Jonathan Okita was in when he squared the ball left. However, Fallon’s defending to get back and stand up 1v1 was superb as he came away with the ball form a situation that looked likely to lead to a goal.

Linfield introduced Joel Cooper who returned swiftly after leaving the TNS match on a stretcher just weeks ago, and he lifted the crowd as the Blues surged once more. Vertainen got a low shot off inside the box but it was well saved and Daniel Finlayson flashed a header wide from a corner.

Then, on 57 minutes with FCZ leading 1-0, came a talking point in the match. Joel Cooper beat a few men in the box before hitting the ground following a challenge and the winger – along with several teammates – appealed passionately for a penalty, but the referee said no. No foul was given either way. A goalkick was the outcome.

FC Zurich then doubled their lead on 63 minutes and it came through the impressive Gnonto, who joined the Swiss club from Inter Milan two years ago. The forward turned, nipping in between Linfield’s three central defenders to latch onto a ball over the top before poking the ball beyond Chris Johns.

Stephen Fallon had a glorious opportunity to half the deficit when he was found arriving into the box unmarked following great footwork and a pinpoint cross from Joel Cooper, but Fallon was disappointed to fire over from a great position.

The Blues fought to the end to try and reduce the arrears but it wasn’t to be. A very tough task lies ahead for Linfield who will have to try and overturn this two-goal deficit in Zurich next Thursday, but David Healy and his players will give their best for the travelling support. In any case, there’s always the Europa Conference play-off to fall back on if needs be.

Full Time: Linfield 0 – 2 FC Zurich

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