Europa League: Ballymena United players better for experience says David Jeffrey

Malmo defeat Ballymena
Malmo proved far too strong for Ballymena in the first qualifying round

Ballymena United's heavy defeat by Malmo will not put a sour note on their Europa League campaign, says manager David Jeffrey.

The Sky Blues lost 11-0 on aggregate having advanced to the first qualifying round with a historic win over Faroese side NSI Runavik.

"Sometimes you have got to accept brilliance," said Jeffrey.

"It has been a wonderful journey for the club".

A second place finish in last season's Irish Premiership secured Ballymena a European spot worth £200,000, a figure that was doubled following their preliminary round victory.

Against Malmo, who sit top of Sweden's Allsvenskan after 16 games, United were soundly beaten by a side that made it to the Champions League group stages in 2014/15 and 2016/17.

"It has been great for the players in terms of their footballing education," Jeffrey added.

"Here ends the journey in terms of Europe, but what a journey it's been".

Summer football 'not the issue'

On a night of mixed fortunes for Irish Premiership sides in Europe, Crusaders defeated Torshavn to set-up a tie with Premier League side Wolves while Cliftonville were well beaten by FK Haugesund.

While the idea of tweaking the local calendar to include summer football continues to be a hot topic, Jeffrey has called for a sense of perspective when equating results in Europe to the season's current format.

"We could play summer football and we could still get chinned by Malmo," he said.

"We are playing sides who are full-time, in the middle of their season and who are just quite frankly a much higher standard.

"If anyone thinks for one minute that Ballymena United or Cliftonville could have done better by playing summer football then they need to have a bit of a think".

The defeated sides now have over three weeks to prepare for their Premiership openers on 10 August.