Written by Connor Hughes
It’s that time of year again, when the smaller clubs within Europe take part in the early qualifying rounds of the Europa League.
Now although this is not the ‘business end’ of the competition, there certainly is still a very exciting programme of fixtures involving clubs from across the continent, some of which include clubs from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.
Starting in Northern Ireland, Cliftonville were too much for FC Differdange 03, beating them 2-0 in the second-leg and 3-1 on aggregate. Staying in Northern Ireland, Glenavon FC were unable to prevent a drumming from Icelandic outfit KR Reykjavik, who beat them 6-0 at Glenavons Mourneview Park, KR won 8-1 on aggregate. Moving South of the border, in the Republic, Cork City hosted Linfield in an all-Irish Europa League tie, Cork claimed the bragging rights with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. The goals in the second-leg coming within 4 minutes of each other.
Scottish teams had mixed results in this First Qualifying Round. Aberdeen put in a lacklustre display in their second-leg against minnows Fola Esch, losing 1-0 in Luxembourg, they had to rely on the job done in the first-leg to push through their 3-2 win on aggregate. Hearts had to travel out to the far reaches of the competition, they played in Tallinn, Estonia against FC Infonet. They overcame their opponents in both the first and second leg, beating them 2-1 at Tynecastle, and 4-2 in Tallinn.
credit Zhi Yong Lee
St. Patrick’s Athletic had to rely on the away goals rule to beat Jeunesse Esch in Luxembourg, their tie finished 2-2 on aggregate but that was enough to take the Irish club through to the next round.
The Welsh clubs taking part in this years competition have fared differently with their results. Connah’s Quay made history for Welsh Football, beating Norweigan outfit Stabaek away from home 1-0, that single goal was enough across both legs, putting them in the draw for the next round. Llandudno Town went out to Swedish side I.K Gotëburg, losing 7-1 on aggregate, however they showed promise against a significantly superior side. The third Welsh side in this years competition is Bala Town, however their campaign will go no further, they lost 2-0 in both legs to A.I.K.
credit Matthew Wilkinson
A solid start in the competition for our home nation sides, English clubs will be entering the competition at the group stage.
What results stood out for you this week? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Matthew Wilkinson