Linfield 4 Cliftonville 1: Linfield brushed aside rivals Cliftonville in the semi-final of the County Antrim Shield with a superb 4-1 victory at Windsor Park last night.
An inspired Andrew Waterworth destroyed a Cliftonville side that made eight changes from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Glentoran.
Unfortunately an entertaining semi-final that saw Linfield play some fine football was marred by a bout of sectarian singing mid-way through the second half.
In the 81st minute the match officials asked for an announcement to be made that warned spectators that if the singing continued the game would be abandoned. Thankfully the singing ceased and the game was completed.
The first chance of the game arrived in the fifth minute when good build-up play on the edge of the box between Michael Gault and Jamie Mulgrew allowed Michael Carvill to cross the ball for Matthew Tipton, but the former Portadown forward blasted the ball over from 10 yards.
Linfield continued their bright start in the 13th minute when Gault fired off a half volley from 20 yards that went just past Ryan Brown's post.
Cliftonville had their first real chance in the 19th minute when Martin Murray flighted in a cross from the right flank which Dairmuid O'Carroll headed past Jonny Tuffey and towards the Linfield goal, but Sean Ward read the situation and headed the ball off the line.
O'Carroll tried his luck again in the 21st minute, this time unleashing a shot from 25 yards but it went well past the post.
Linfield opened the scoring on the half hour mark after Billy Joe Burns used his pace to gallop down the right wing, past makeshift full back Joe McNeill, before delivering a dangerous ball across the front of goal. With Matthew Tipton bearing down, George McMullan turned the ball into his own net from inside the six yard box. While the goal may have arrived in fortuitous circumstance, the Blues were well worth their lead.
Martin Donnelly had a great chance to equalise in the 33rd minute when he found himself in space in the box, but the winger's shot cannoned into the side netting much to the frustration of the travelling support.
Cliftonville had a strong penalty claim turned down in the 35th minute when Ciaran Doherty collapsed under the weight of a Kyle McVey challenge. The tackle, that occurred just inside the Linfield penalty box, was deemed to be fair be referee Hugh Carvill.
Linfield did get the second goal four minutes before the break when Andy Waterworth cut the ball back from the right hand side, allowing Matthew Tipton to smash the ball home from 15 yards. Brown got a touch on his low drive, but it wasn't enough to stop the ball from finding the back of the net.
The Reds almost pulled a goal back in the 43rd minute when Doherty raced through on goal, but a combination of Tuffey and Ward stopped the ball from finding the back of the net.
If Cliftonville fans were hoping for a second half come back, then they were left sorely disappointed. The Reds matched a poor first half display, with an equally lacklustre performance in the second period.
Liam Boyce was brought on in the 55th minute to add a little spice to the Cliftonville attack, but he made little difference. His best chance arrived in the 57th minute, but his 20-yard drive was easily saved by fellow Northern Ireland international Tuffey.
Niall Quinn forced Brown into a fine save in the 65th minute with a superb 30 yard free-kick. From the resulting corner Andy Waterworth blasted the ball just over the crossbar.
The third goal arrived in the 67th minute when Jamie Mulgrew played a fine ball to Waterworth. The former Glentoran forward rode a tackle from McNally, before cutting the ball back and allowing Carvill to tap in from within the six yard box.
While Linfield attacked with style, Tuffey played his part in the victory. He made fine second half saves from both Chris Curran and Ciaran Doherty.
Nobody was surprised when the fourth goal arrived in the 87th minute. Waterworth ghosted past the Reds defence before drilling the ball home.
Cliftonville scored a consolation goal in injury time when George McMullan headed home at the back post after Martin Donnelly delivered a fine cross from the left flank. Sadly for the Reds, it wasn't enough to prevent an embarrassing defeat at the hands of their rivals.
Linfield: Tuffey, BJ Burns, McVey, Ward, Quinn, Carvill, Mulgrew, Gault, A.Burns (70 Lowry), Waterworth, Tipton. Subs Not Used : Knowles, McMenamin, Reece Glendinng, McAllister.
Cliftonville: Brown, McMullan, Smyth, McNally, McNeill, Doherty, Caldwell (55 Boyce), Johnston, Murray (63 Curran), Donnelly, O'Carroll (70 C. Scannell). Subs Not Used : Garrett, Gormley.
Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).