Larne’s Danish delight to hold upper hand over Aarhus
Larne owner Kenny Bruce had a smile on him as wide as the Irish Sea as he watched his team run out 2-1 winners against AGF Aarhus in the Europa Conference League second qualifying round, first leg.
The Inver Park outfit were excellent from start to finish against the Danish Superliga side, who struggled to get to grips with the hosts’ high intensity.
Roared on by a vociferous home support, Tiernan Lynch’s men were on it from the first whistle and broke the deadlock inside three minutes thanks to David McDaid’s predatory instincts.
Astonishingly, they doubled their advantage before the half hour as full-back Dean Jarvis headed home unmarked in the six-yard box.
Both goals led to wild celebrations from Bruce and the rest of the Larne faithful - and who could blame them as they seemed to be in dreamland.
They tried to press home their advantage in the second half but were hit by a late suckerpunch as Aarhus scrambled a consolation goal.
Lynch will be disappointed with the manner of the goal as they had restricted their opponents to very little on the night.
But it was another momentous night in the journey for Larne as they head for Denmark next week full of confidence.
The hosts went with the same starting 11 which began last week’s tie at home to Bala Town.
The only change was an enforced one as the experienced Albert Watson replaced the injured Kofi Balmer.
The visitors handed a European debut to their €1million man Dawid Kurminowski, who joined the Danish outfit from MSK Zilina after finishing the overall top goal scorer in the Slovakian top division last season.
There were 850 passionate home fans packed into Inver Park and they lifted the roof off the place with only three minutes on the clock.
McDaid was unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Aarhus skipper Sebastian Hausner.
And the home side produced a clever training ground routine from the set-piece as Fuad Sule played a short pass to Mark Randall, whose whipped ball into the box caused all sorts of confusion.
It looked like Jeff Hughes was going to tap-in from close range, but the ball ran away from him, falling instead for McDaid to slam home and send the supporters into raptures.
The visitors were struggling to cope with Larne’s high intensity as Lynch’s men took the game to them.
And, as the game moved towards the half-hour mark, the home support erupted again.
Another slick move saw John Herron deliver a pinpoint cross for full-back Jarvis to head home from six yards out and send the Inver boys into dreamland.
The second half continued in the same vein despite Aarhus coach David Nielsen making several changes to try and get a foothold in the game.
Tensions threatened to boil over before the hour mark as Patrick Olsen took exception to challenges from Randall and Tomas Cosgrove.
Larne still looked the most likely to score again though with danger man McDaid continuing to ask all the questions.
As the game moved into the last quarter he lost his marker and forced Jesper Hansen into a smart save at his near post with a clever header.
McDaid exited the action soon after to the relief of the visitors, with Ronan Hale coming on to replace him.
With seven minutes to go - and out of nothing - Aarhus scrambled a goal back as Rohan Ferguson could only parry a cross and a combination of Watson and Soren Tengstedt forced the ball over the line.
It was harsh on Larne but the result and performance will fill them full of confidence ahead of next week’s return leg at Ceres Park.
Larne: Ferguson, Watson, Herron (Mitchell, 74), Sule, Randall (McKendry, 63), McDaid (Hale, 68), Lynch, Bolger, Cosgrove, Hughes, Jarvis.
Subs (not used): Argyrides, Kelly, Robinson, Scott, Lusty.
AGF Aarhus: Hansen, Tingager (Bisseck, 46), Poulsen, Jevtovic (Tengstedt, 38), Olsen, Munksgaard (Juelsgard, 46), Lund (Ammitzboll, 73), Thorsteinsson (Gersbach, 48), Kurminowski, Gronbaek, Hausner.
Subs (not used): Andersen, Duncan, Kristensen.
Referee: Gal Leibovitz (ISR).
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