Linfield Scorers :
58’ Burns pen. 75’ Haughey
Glentoran Scorer :
Linfield Team :
Tuffey, Belezika, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, Thompson, Burns (80’ Carvill), Ward, Matthew Clarke, Mulgrew, Sproule (89’ Callacher)
Linfield Subs not used :
Millar, Brown, Ross Glendinning
Glentoran Team :
Morris, Garret, Kane, McCaffery, Burney, Scullion, Stewart, Henderson, Gordon, Nelson (80’ McCullough), McKee
Glentoran Subs not used :
O’Hanlon, Addis, Calvert, Hogg
Linfield came from behind, to beat Glentoran and keep their title hopes alive, in the final Bel-Clasico of the season at a sunbathed Oval.
Glenn Belezika, Peter Thompson and Ivan Sproule returned from injury to boost the ranks, as Linfield looked to bounce back from the defeat to Glenavon two Saturdays past. The Glens however would have loved nothing more than to land a knock-out blow to their bitter rival’s title aspirations.
The Blues started well and forced a series of free kicks deep in Glentoran territory. A Stephen Lowry free kick from the left came agonisingly close to giving Linfield the lead as Aaron Burns climbed to head it onto the top of the bar. Waterworth then came close in the 11th minute as Garrett botched his clearance from an Aaron Burns cross which gave Waterworth the chance to snatch a shot just wide of Morris’s goal.
It was an eventful opening 20 minutes for Garrrett as, in the 16th minute, he couldn’t make his mind up whether to pass back or hoof the ball clear. Waterworth stole in to nick the ball away and go one-on-one with his former teammate Elliot Morris. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the Glentoran stopper got the better of his old sparring partner. A minute later, Garrett was the Glens’ saviour as he sprawled his leg out to deflect a Waterworth shot wide after being played through by Aaron Burns.
Linfield’s next chance came in the 27th minute as a long ball into the box wasn’t properly cleared and Aaron Burns showed great alertness to get in front of his man and narrowly head wide.
In the 29th minute, the Glens showed their attacking intent as Kim Nelson put through David Scullion. Scullion tried to clip the ball over Tuffey and it was a relief to see his shot land on top of the goal. Just as Linfield hearts returned to normal, Scullion’s strike partner Fra McCaffery, was put through on goal. This time the Glentoran number 4 made no mistake as he hit his shot low and hard into the corner of the net to make it one nil Glentoran.
A bit of Aaron Burns magic nearly gave Linfield an equaliser in the 38th minute as the winger clipped a delicious ball across the Glentoran six yard area. As Waterworth steamed in at the far post Garrett got just enough of his shoulder on the Linfield forward’s back to put him off his strike, and the ball sailed high and wide.
Half Time: Glentoran 1 – 0 Linfield
The Glens were the first team to have a pop at goal in the second period with a Francis McCaffery cross only headed out as far as Jordan Stewart, whose shot could only sting the hands of Tuffey.
The Blues were thrown a lifeline back into the game in the 58th minute. Glenn Belezika powered into the box and the only way the Glentoran defence could halt his advance was through bringing him down. Aaron Burns stepped up to coolly slot the ball past Morris who guessed the wrong way. One each.
In the 65th minute, Sean Ward forced his way down the left hand side paying a one two with Clarke. Niall Henderson tried to marshall the ball back to Garrett, but his pass back only found Peter Thompson in a predatory mood. Unfortunately, Thompson’s cross shot was well plucked out of the air by Elliot Morris.
The Blues took the lead in the 75th minute. Jamie Mulgrew did well to drive to the bye line and play in a cross which the Glens could only scramble away for a corner. From the resulting corner ball Matthew Clarke produced a peach of a cross to Mark Haughey who headed in with aplomb to make it 2-1 Linfield.
Three minutes after going ahead Aaron Burns had a glorious opportunity to extend Linfield’s advantage. Stephen Lowry fired in a free kick from the left and Burns stole in unmarked. Unchallenged, Burns made good contact with his header but Morris was there to clasp the ball.
With three added minutes to play the Glens pushed for the equaliser but Linfield played out the last few minutes cleverly. It was a tremendous comeback win, and the news that Crusaders had been beaten in their game gave the Bluemen some hope going into the final 4 games of this eventful season.
Full Time: Glentoran 1 – 2 Linfield