10-man Cliftonville knocked out in searing Cyprus heat against AEK Larnaca
AEK Larnaca 2-0 Cliftonville (agg: 5-2)
Caoimhin Bonner saw red as Cliftonville were knocked out of the Europa League after a 5-2 defeat on aggregate to Cypriot side AEK Larnaca at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium.
Gerard Lyttle's men were defeated 2-0 on the night, a valiant result given they played for the best part of 80 minutes with one less player.
Defender Bonner was given his marching orders when he was adjudged to have commited a high tackle and from there it was nothing more than a formality for the Cypriots, who secured the victory through goals from Vladimir Boljevic and Joan Thomas.
Cliftonville's failure to reach the next round signals the end of all Northern Irish interest in Europe after Linfield and Glenavon lost their second round qualifiers and Crusaders lost to FC Copenhagen on Wednesday.
In the baking heat of Larnaca, where at its peak the temperature hit 28 degrees, Cliftonville were about to suffer the same fate as their Premiership compatriots and, when Bonner was shown a straight red for a high challenge in the 11th minute, the writing was firmly on the wall.
A man down, Cliftonville struggled for momentum and they soon found themselves a goal down too when striker Boljevic slotted in a crisp strike on the stroke of half-time.
Tomas added a second midway through the second half to secure the tie overall, but Cliftonville did have chances to at least snatch a consolation goal, the best of which fell late on to Chris Ramsey whose effort was blocked.
AEK: Mino, Mojsov (Alves 45), Catala, Jorge (Ioannou 77), Tomas, Tete, Trickovski (Englezou 68), Boljevic, Ortiz, Murillo, Charalambidis. Subs: Saizar, Konstantinou, Charalambous, Mintikkis.
Cliftonville: Mooney, McGovern, Ives, Bonner, Curran (D Murray 74), Knowles, McDaid (Ramsey 14), Catney, Winchester (Garrett 55), J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: Ramsey, Garrett, Hughes, M Murray, Lavery.
Referee: Tihomir Pejin