Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Champions League: No Blues for Blayney ahead of Linfield's Norway trip

Alan Blayney dusted himself down after his Windsor Park heroics against Rosenborg, and then said: “We can make the next round”.

The Linfield goalkeeper was in inspired form — as were the tireless workers in front of him — to frustrate the formidable Norwegian visitors in a Champions League qualifier on Wednesday night.

One sensational stop from Markus Henriksen had the Blues faithful on their feet in appreciation, as David Jeffrey’s troops produced their finest European performance.

The away leg on Wednesday promises to be another huge test for the Carling Premiership leaders, but Blayney insists they won’t be travelling “just to make up the numbers”.

The Northern Ireland stopper said: “Those days are gone. Portadown and Linfield have shown what you can achieve through hard work and belief.

“We are coming up against top quality opposition at a time when we aren’t as sharp or as physically strong as we could be, but that doesn’t mean we are destined to lose.

“I think the boys put up a fantastic performance, and with a little luck I feel we can nick a goal and even progress to the next round. You have to set high targets and be positive.

“Rosenborg have a great pedigree, and when you consider the odds stacked against us, that has to go down as one of the best performances I have been involved in.”

The former Doncaster Rovers shot-stopper gave another exhibition of the reliable goalkeeping — the type that has seen him drafted back into the Northern Ireland set-up.

His defence stood firm, but when Rosenborg could smell blood, the Belfast man produced a superb fingertip save to deny Markus Henriksen.

“It’s obviously pleasing when I’ve done my bit, but the whole team deserves huge credit,” added Blayney.

“In fact, I didn’t have a huge amount to do. I read the shot from Henriksen, managed to move early, and was able to claw it away.

“The best save I made was when I was at Southampton, and it won ‘Premiership save of the season’,

but I was pleased with this one too. The shot had good pace on it, but I managed to reach it.”

And on the one occasion that Blayney was stranded off his goal-line, skipper Noel Bailie raced back to stick out a leg, and smash the ball away to safety.

“I thought they would score,” he added. “But it was a fantastic block. It was a moment that summed up the attitude of the players, and our determination to keep a clean sheet.

“Noel and the rest of the boys were fantastic, and we have a great spirit in the team.”

Blayney will now expect a busy 90 minutes in the replay, as a hungry Rosenborg side plans to finish the job.

“They will up their tempo, no doubt about that,” said the 28-year-old. “The fans will get behind them and gee them up, but we want to get a result and we’ll be going there to get a result.

“If we can keep them scoreless to half-time then it’s all to play for, and the fact that we didn’t concede at Windsor makes a huge difference.”

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