Europa League - Qualifying Play-offs - 1st Leg
Linfield3FK Qarabag2

Europa League play-off: Linfield earn stunning 3-2 first-leg win over Qarabag

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Goals from Shayne Lavery and Mark Stafford give Linfield victory over Qarabag

Two goals from an inspired Shayne Lavery helped Linfield earn one of their best-ever results as they stunned FK Qarabag of Azerbaijan 3-2 in the Europa League play-off first leg.

Faycal Rherras' goal put Qarabag ahead as the visitors dominated early on.

But goals before the break from Mark Stafford and Lavery turned the game on its head before the latter notched an outstanding solo goal on 75 minutes.

Magaye Gueye scored an injury-time penalty for Qarabag.

The second leg takes place in Azerbaijan next Thursday.

Linfield are aiming to become the first Irish League club to qualify for the Europa League group stages and, while the conceding of a late penalty was a blow to those chances, it will not detract too much from a memorable occasion.

The home crowd had answered the club's pre-match call to get behind the players and were in fine voice throughout, particularly in the second half when they barely stopped singing as they sensed their team were heading towards a major result.

David Healy's men had beaten HB Torshavn and FK Sutjeska to get to this stage, while Qarabag dropped into the Europa League after losing their Champions League qualifier to Apoel.

Shayne Lavery (left) celebrates one of his goals with Niall Quinn and Bastien Hery
Shayne Lavery (left) combined brilliantly with midfielder Bastien Hery in Thursday's Europa League play-off first leg

Outstanding Lavery leads Linfield fightback

Former Everton striker Lavery was already establishing himself as something of a fans favourite at Windsor Park with his all-action, energetic style after signing for the Irish Premiership champions in the summer.

That status will have been significantly elevated with another display full of running finished off by one of the best goals the stadium has seen from a Linfield player, as he got on the scoresheet for a third consecutive European tie.

With French midfielder Bastien Hery trying to get as close to him as often as possible, the pair looked to be the home side's only attacking threat in an opening period bossed by the visitors.

But that domination was broken in the 40th minute when Andrew Mitchell produced a superb inswinging free-kick from the left and Stafford rose to power a bullet header home from close range.

Lavery then showed his poacher's instinct in first-half injury-time when he found space in the six-yard box to get on the end of a Mitchell corner and nod in Linfield's second.

If Lavery's first-half display was good, his solo run and goal in the 75th minute was sensational as he bustled his way on to the ball and past two defenders before cutting inside another and finding the net with an exquisite curling finish inside the far post.

Qarabag utterly dominant early on

As momentous a night as it was in south Belfast, the quality displayed by the visitors means Linfield still have a massive job on their hands if they are to make that historic leap into the group stages.

All the warnings before kick-off - from Blues boss Healy and a Dundalk camp which lost over two legs to Qarabag in the Champions League - were of how dangerous the visitors' wide men were.

Jaime Romero and Abdellah Zoubir lived up to their billing in an opening 40-minute spell during which they really deserved to be more than a goal up - and would have been but for the woodwork and some great goalkeeping by Rohan Ferguson.

Mahir Emreli fired inches wide after just two minutes and Chris Casement had to block a Zoubir shot before the opening goal arrived in the 15th minute.

Ferguson punched a corner which was only partially cleared after coming back into the box and a ball over the top of the defence found Rherras who lobbed a controlled finish over Ferguson and into the top corner.

Michel hit the post from a left-wing Rherras cross before Ferguson made a fine save from Romero, from which the Blues counter-attacked and won the corner that led to the equaliser.

David Healy acknowledges Linfield supporters after Thursday's sensational win
David Healy's side have the chance to become the first Irish League club to make the Europa League group stages

Healy's heroes show maturity and composure

The maturity and composure Healy's players displayed in the second half was immense and their formation made sure the visitors' efforts on goal were limited, although Emreli gave the home crowd a scare when he struck the inside of the post four minutes after Lavery's wonder goal.

Jamie Mulgrew, as ever, played a pivatol role in midfield with Mitchell beside him and Hery just ahead of them also performing superbly. The Frenchman was definitely less advanced than he was in the first half, but his quality on the ball and choice of pass throughout ensured the momentum of the game never strayed too far from Linfield's grasp.

Qarabag were stunned by the Blues fightback but will have been mightily relieved to score the injury-time penalty, with Gueye dinking the ball down the middle after Matthew Clarke fouled Romero in the box.

All roads now lead to Azerbaijan next Thursday and Linfield, unlike last weekend when they lost at home to Coleraine, have this weekend off to prepare for a second leg that will be of enormous importance to the Belfast club.

Line-ups

Linfield

  • 1Ferguson
  • 47Casement
  • 2StaffordBooked at 29mins
  • 6Callacher
  • 16Clarke
  • 22Mulgrew
  • 27Mitchell
  • 9CooperBooked at 54minsSubstituted forMillarat 90+1'minutes
  • 8Héry
  • 31Quinn
  • 14LaverySubstituted forWaterworthat 80'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Larkin
  • 7Waterworth
  • 10Stewart
  • 12Millar
  • 17Kearns
  • 23McGivern
  • 40Moore

FK Qarabag

  • 13da Silva
  • 30Huseynov
  • 5Medvedev
  • 14Sadiqov
  • 23RherrasBooked at 89mins
  • 8Marcos MaderaBooked at 68mins
  • 2Qarayev
  • 10Quintana SosaSubstituted forGueyeat 67'minutes
  • 9Romero
  • 11EmreliBooked at 87mins
  • 17Zoubir

Substitutes

  • 3Ferreira Silva
  • 6Slavchev
  • 7Abdullayev
  • 12Mahammadaliyev
  • 18Ibrahimli
  • 21Hajiyev
  • 99Gueye
Referee:
Sandro Schärer
Attendance:
4,633

Match Stats

Home TeamLinfieldAway TeamFK Qarabag
Possession
Home67%
Away33%
Shots
Home3
Away2
Shots on Target
Home3
Away2
Corners
Home0
Away0
Fouls
Home0
Away0

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Thursday 22nd August 2019

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1B Leverkusen6411169713
2Zürich631276110
3AEK Larnaca6123612-65
4Ludogorets604257-24

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1RB Salzburg66001761118
2Celtic630368-29
3RB Leipzig62139817
4Rosenborg6015414-101

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Zenit St Petersburg632165111
2Slavia Prague631243110
3Bordeaux62136607
4FC Copenhagen612335-25

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Dinamo Zagreb6420113814
2Fenerbahçe62227708
3Spartak Trnava621347-37
4Anderlecht603327-53

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Arsenal65101221016
2Sporting64111331013
3Vorskla Poltava6105413-93
4FK Qarabag6105213-113

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Real Betis633072512
2Olympiakos6312116510
3AC Milan6312129310
4F91 Dudelange6015316-131

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Villarreal6240125710
2Rapid Vienna631269-310
3Rangers61328806
4Spartak Moscow6123812-45

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Frankfurt66001751218
2Lazio6303911-29
3Apollon Limassol6213101007
4Marseille6015616-101

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1KRC Genk6321148611
2Malmö FF62317619
3Besiktas6213911-27
4Sarpsborg 086123813-55

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Sevilla64021861212
2FK Krasnodar640288012
3Standard Liege631279-210
4Akhisarspor6015414-101

K

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Dynamo Kyiv6321107311
2Rennes630378-19
3FC Astana62227708
4FK Jablonec612368-25

L

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Chelsea6510123916
2BATE Borisov63039909
3MOL Vidi621357-27
4PAOK Salonika6105512-73
View full Europa League tables

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