Cliftonville were fired up by the war of words, reveals Gerard Lyttle
Cliftonville 2-0 Differdange (Cliftonville win 3-1 on aggregate)
Cliftonville are heading to sunny Cyprus for the second qualifying round of the Europa League after they saw off Luxembourg side Differdange at Solitude in impressive fashion.
Goals from David McDaid and Jay Donnelly gave the Reds a 2-0 win in Belfast, securing a 3-1 aggregate success that sets up a second-round clash with AEK Larnaca.
On the night, Cliftonville had too much for Differdange. The fiery affair saw Hungarian referee Ferenc Karako book seven visiting players, while defender Tom Siebenaler was sent-off 11 minutes into the second-half.
Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle explained how Differdange contributed to their own downfall.
He said: "We got hold of a few quotes that appeared in their local newspaper last week.
"They said they were going to rest some of their flair players and start a few of their more aggressive players because they thought we were an aggressive team in the first-leg. Apparently, they were annoyed by the way we celebrated our equaliser out there, and they would use that as their motivation to win in Belfast.
"We spoke about it in the dressing room before the game, and those quotes ended up motivating us. It was good that we got to celebrate twice more."
The Reds will host AEK Larnaca next Thursday, with the away leg in Cyprus on July 21.
A delighted Lyttle said: "I'm sure Larnaca will be a step-up again. I'm just delighted for the players because they were superb in both legs.
"Last week, in Luxembourg, we were able to size them up. We were excellent at Solitude, but it was the hard work out there that made this possible."
Cliftonville had the lead within 72 seconds. Tomas Cosgrove's quick throw-in found the head of Jay Donnelly, who flicked the ball into the path of McDaid. McDaid took the ball in his stride and strolled into the penalty area before drilling a shot into the bottom left corner.
The Reds thought they had a second two minutes before the break, only for referee Karako to disallow Chris Curran's effort. Curran got onto the end of a cross, but the official believed Differdange goalkeeper Julian Weber had been pushed by Jude Winchester in the build-up.
Differdange's task was made even more difficult in the 56th minute when Siebenaler clipped's Jay Donnelly legs just outside the area. Karako showed the defender a straight red, before McDaid's free-kick cannoned into the wall.
Cliftonville made sure of their progress with a Jay Donnelly goal in the 75th minute. Curran ran down a loose ball and skipped past a defender before drilling the ball across the front of goal, where the attacker gladly obliged at the back post.
In the end, Cliftonville thoroughly deserved to progress. At Solitude on Thursday, Larnaca are likely to provide much stiffer opposition than Differdange, but for now the Reds will rightly bask in their own slice of European glory.
Cliftonville: Mooney, Cosgrove, McGuinness, Bonner, Ives (Lavery 66), Curran, Winchester (Knowles 72), Catney, M. Donnelly, J. Donnelly, McDaid (Hughes 84)
Differdange: Weber, Rodrigues, Siebenaler, May, Ribeiro (Luisi 78), Er Rafik, Caron, Yeye, Vandenbroeck, Franzoni, Sinani (Lascak 49)
Referee: Ferenc Karako (Hungary)