Fearless Connah’s Quay Cause Europa League Upset

Connah’s Quay seal unlikely win; slender defeats for Bala Town and Bangor City

Connah’s Quay claimed a famous first-leg win over HJK Helsinki as the three Welsh Premier League clubs all kept their UEFA Europa League ties open ahead of next week’s return legs.

It was the Nomads whoever who claimed the result the night, edging past Finns HJK at the Bangor University Stadium.

HJK – runaway leaders in their domestic championship – dominated the opening period yet it was Connah’s Quay who stole the lead five minutes before half-time with what proved to be the deciding goal.

Nathan Woolfe cut in from the right flank onto his favoured left-foot before delivering a probing cross-cum-shot which evaded everyone including the HJK goalkeeper to give the Nomads an unlikely advantage.

Connah’s Quay have form in heroic, backs-to-the-wall defensive performances in Europe and so it showed here. And unlike last summer’s stubbornly stoic display against Vojvodina in which a late goal from the Serbians denied Andy Morrison’s side a point, Connah’s Quay were able to go one better this time and held out against sustained HJK pressure for the duration.

“This team’s strength is down to their desire to keep going, to keep doing their jobs; it’s when one switches off or one doesn’t want to go back that three yards and only goes back one, or things like that, then things start getting stretched and you start getting opened up, but we’ve shown that we can cause them problems,” explained victorious manager Andy Morrison.

“It’s a massive ask to go over there next week and get anything, but with the spirit in this changing room there’s no reason why we can’t get a goal, and then they’ve got to score three, so let’s see what happens!”

Lichtenstein side FC Vaduz turned in a clinical display to defeat Bala Town 2-1 in Rhyl.

After Keiran Smith had gone close for the Lakesiders, Vaduz broke decisively to go ahead. And Bala’s fortunes failed to improve when the visitors doubled their lead with what was their second attempt of the game inside the opening half hour.

The tie was kept alive when Chris Venables converted Kieran Smith’s rebound in the second-half before Ian Sheridan and Stuart J. Jones both went close, giving the Lakesiders every hope for the second leg.

On the continent, Bangor City’s new management team of Kevin Nicholson and Gary Taylor-Fletcher will have been encouraged by the resilience shown in the Citizen’s 1-0 defeat to Lyngby in Denmark.

Bror Blume opened the scoring for the Danes after just 13 minutes, but a tireless performance – backed up from a stella display from goalkeeper Connor Roberts – from City, prevented Lyngby from extending their lead.

The late dismissal of Hallgrimur Jonasson for a second bookable offence saw the hosts finish with ten men and Bangor with their heads held high.

Featured image courtesy of Nik Mesney/NCM Media/Connah’s Quay 

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