Europa Conference League - Qualifying Second Round - 2nd Leg
AGF AarhusAGF Aarhus1LarneLarne1

Europa Conference League: Larne draw with AGF Aarhus to reach next round

By Andy GrayBBC Sport NI
Ronan Hale's well-taken strike gave Larne the lead in Denmark
Ronan Hale's well-taken strike gave Larne the lead in Denmark

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch has said he has "never ever been part of something where I've been as proud" following his side's progression in the Europa Conference League.

Ronan Hale's first-half goal was cancelled out by a Patrick Olsen's penalty for 10-man ARG Aarhus.

Larne held on to reach the third qualifying round 3-2 on aggregate.

"We talked about giving the fans something to cheer about tonight and hopefully we've done that," he said.external-link

"It was a difficult night. We rode our luck at times. It wasn't our best performance but in our pre-match this afternoon we talked about tonight not being about performance, tonight was about result and we got that tonight.

"We ground that out, we showed great hunger, drive and determination and we refused to lie down and we refused to be beat and I think that's good signs for moving forward.

"We're playing at a totally different level now. This is a good team with a lot of very good players and we had to come here with a little bit different mindset but I thought the mindset was absolutely superb."

The 1-1 draw in Denmark is another step in Larne's rise up the Northern Irish football ladder. This time three years ago the Inver Reds were preparing for another season in the NIFL Championship, the country's second tier.

But having clinched promotion back to the top flight at the end of the 2017-18 season, they have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in local football thanks to a County Antrim Shield triumph and last season's run to the Irish Cup final, which they lost to Linfield.

Tiernan Lynch's men will face Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal in the third qualifying round, with the first leg set to take place on 5 August with the return fixture at Inver Park a week later.

Hale strikes after Aarhus red

In front of a vocal crowd at Aarhus Stadium, the hosts saw plenty of possession in the early stages but struggled to break the Irish Premiership side down.

David McDaid often cut a lonely figure up front for the Irish Premiership side, who were content to sit deep and hit Aarhus on the counter, but the striker was effective when he got in the game, and a swift move almost led to the opening goal however Lee Lynch saw his effort well saved by Jesper Hasnen.

The hosts continued to press and Oliver Lund's header narrowly missed the target, but just eight minutes after his first yellow card for scything down John Herron, Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson was sent off on 26 minutes following an embarrassing dive in the penalty area while under pressure from Larne midfielder.

Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson
Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson was sent off for simulation

However the hosts continued to press and skipper Jeff Hughes had to be alert to clear the ball off the line after Rohan Ferguson got a crucial touch to take the pace of Dawid Kurminowski's effort on the wet surface.

Gift Links' rasping effort from the edge of the area was another warning shot but Larne continued to dig deep and pushed forward as the half progressed. Mark Randall's corner was headed over by Cian Bolger following some more good forward play by McDaid but the breakthrough was made on the stroke of half-time.

Randall caught Frederik Tingager in possession just outside the area before squaring the ball to Hale, on the pitch three minutes after replacing the injured Lynch, and the forward kept his composure by firing the ball beyond Hansen and into the bottom corner.

Larne show resilience

Needing two goals to force extra-time, Aarhus came flying out of the traps after the restart in a bid to get back in the game.

Kurminowski curled an shot well wide from the edge of the area but the Danish outfit, just like in the first-half, struggled to break the Irish Premiership side down despite having the majority of possession.

McDaid saw a weak effort blocked after being played in by Hale in a rare Larne attack, however Aarhus were back in the game the after the ball skid up off the wet surface and struck the arm of Robinson, just onto the pitch as a substitute, in the area with 19 minutes to play.

It looked a harsh call, but midfielder Olsen stepped up to convert the penalty and with momentum on their side, Links saw an effort brilliantly stopped by the feet of Ferguson minutes later.

The Danish storm continued as they pushed for a dramatic late equaliser but Larne stood firm, including a superb block by Herron to deny Albert Grønbæk in the closing moments.

Line-ups

AGF Aarhus

  • 1Hansen
  • 27ErlykkeBooked at 78mins
  • 13MunksgaardSubstituted forD'Albertoat 61'minutes
  • 15LundSubstituted forGersbachat 70'minutes
  • 5TingagerSubstituted forKristensenat 88'minutes
  • 4Bisseck
  • 10Olsen
  • 6Poulsen
  • 17ThorsteinssonBooked at 26mins
  • 21KurminowskiSubstituted forAmmitzbøllat 70'minutes
  • 11Links

Substitutes

  • 2Gersbach
  • 7Jevtovic
  • 14Tengstedt
  • 18Juelsgaard
  • 20Duncan
  • 23Kristensen
  • 26D'Alberto
  • 36Gadegaard Andersen
  • 37Hausner
  • 38Ammitzbøll

Larne

  • 34FergusonBooked at 82mins
  • 7SuleSubstituted forMitchellat 87'minutes
  • 26Jarvis
  • 4Watson
  • 23CosgroveSubstituted forRobinsonat 71'minutesBooked at 72mins
  • 18BolgerBooked at 43mins
  • 6Herron
  • 16LynchSubstituted forHaleat 42'minutesBooked at 75mins
  • 24Hughes
  • 8RandallBooked at 28minsSubstituted forKellyat 87'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 10McDaid

Substitutes

  • 3Kelly
  • 5Robinson
  • 9Hale
  • 13Argyrides
  • 14Scott
  • 17Mitchell
  • 30Lusty
Referee:
Volen Chinkov
Attendance:
5,170

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport