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UEFA Europa League

Europa League Round-Up: Cork City and Shamrock Rovers through

With a place in the next round of the Europa League at stake, there were a lot of big performances in the second leg of the first qualifying round. Some of the matches had already been decided, but there were many that were still in the balance when kick off arrived. There were 132 goals and 14 red cards across the 48 matches.

There was only one match which was settled with a penalty shootout, between FK Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Zaria Balti from Moldova. Both sides had won their home tie 2-1, although Sarajevo had a brilliant chance to seal the aggregate win in the dying moments of normal time when Nermin Crnkic had a penalty. However, he missed his opportunity leaving the fate of both teams to a penalty shootout. Each side took seven penalties before the match was decided, but in the end it was Maxim Focsa who secured qualification through to the second qualifying round for the Moldovan side for just the second time in their history.

Crusaders of Northern Ireland were eventually knocked out on away goals, despite having won the first leg 3-1. Latvian outfit FK Liepaja had opened the scoring just past the half an hour mark with a penalty, but it wasn’t until the 94th minute that Arturs Karasausks scored the goal that would make the 2-0 on the night, taking the Latvians through and leaving Crusaders heart broken.

Connah’s Quay Nomads had won the first leg of their tie against Finnish giants HJK  1-0. However, they were unable to defend their lead in Helsinki as HJK went on to win 3-0. It was Moshtagh Yaghoubi who opened the scoring before Akseli Pelvas bagged two goals to make sure that it was comfortable for the Finns. The only other side to be knocked out after winning in the first leg was Vojvodina of Serbia who lost 2-0 to Slovakian side Ruzomberok, which cancelled out their 2-1 win earlier in the tie.

The teams from the Republic of Ireland had reason to be cheerful. Shamrock Rovers added a 1-0 win at home against Stjarnan to their 2-0 victory in Iceland to progress. Cork City had also won 2-0 away from home, against Levadia Tallinn of Estonia. However, their second leg wasn’t as simple, with Levadia leading 2-1 at half time. It took a second half hat trick from Sean Maguire, who will be moving to Preston North End at the end of July, to secure a 4-2 win for Cork on the night and a 6-2 win on aggregate.

St. Johnstone didn’t have as much success. After going 2-1 down against Trakai in the first leg they needed a win to turn it around in Latvia. They were unable to do this despite Arunas Klimavicius being sent off before the hour mark following a second yellow. Maksim Maksimov scored in the 88th minute to secure a Trakai 3-1 win on aggregate and knock St. Johnstone out of the competition.

The biggest win of the night and on aggregate went to the Cypriots, AEL Limassol. They beat St. Josephs of Gibraltar 6-0 on the night to take their aggregate lead to 10-0. Although the highest scoring tie was Midtjylland vs Derry City, with the Danes benefiting from a 10-2 score line.

A lot of the big sides were asserting their dominance. AIK Stockholm had drawn 0-0 in the Faroe Islands against Klaksvik, but won the second leg 5-0 on their own patch. While Lech Poznan, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Kairat Almaty, Ferencvaros, Inter Baku, Dinamo Minsk, Norrköping and Jagiellonia Bialystok all added to their first leg wins to ensure they progressed with relative comfort.

Red Star Belgrade’s Richmond Boakye is the first stand alone top scorer of the tournament with four goals. The Ghanaian forward had scored two goals in the first leg against Floriana and repeated that feat in the second leg as his side won 6-3 on aggregate.

The ties for the next round have already been drawn and some of the matchups to look out for are AEK Larnaca (Cyp) vs Cork City (Roi), Brøndby (Den) vs VPS (Fin), Aberdeen (Sco) vs Siroki Brijeg (Bih), Östersunds (Swe) vs Galatasaray (Tur), Hajduk Split (Cro) vs Levski Sofia (Bul) and Gabala (Aze) vs Jagiellonia Bialystok (Pol).  

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