Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Andy Waterworth is happy to have the final say

By Graham Luney

Andy Waterworth admitted he was "gutted" to be dropped from Linfield's starting line-up against AIK Solna, but he enjoyed the last laugh by slotting in the winner.

The striker's 87th minute goal rocked the Swedish giants and handed Warren Feeney's side a surprise lead to defend at the Friends Arena next Thursday evening.

Linfield players produced a performance worthy of the club's 100th European fixture as a disciplined display stunned the off colour Stockholm side.

Many expected Linfield to be blown away in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg showdown at Mourneview Park by a team which lies second in the Allsvenskan League and is packed with international stars, but the Blues frustrated the visitors so much that their 400-strong vociferous travelling support vented their anger at the players after the game.

Waterworth's night started on a disappointing note as he warmed the bench, but after replacing Thompson in the 74th minute he produced the sting in the tail.

"If you ask anyone they will tell you they want to start a game, but that's part and parcel of playing for Linfield," said Waterworth.

"Peter Thompson is a club legend so there is no disgrace at being left on the sidelines while he starts, but of course I was gutted and the manager explained his thinking before the game.

"The gaffer doesn't have to justify his decisions too much, but it was tough to take, especially with it being such a big game for the club, but you have to react to these situations in the right way.

"Sometimes you work really hard and don't score while other times you can make a crucial impact and I'll take those scenarios."

Nabil Bahoui shook the Linfield post with an angled drive, but before Waterworth weaved his late magic, Sean Ward stung keeper Patrik Carlgren's fingertips with a volley that was heading for the top corner of the net.

Then, as the game looked set to end scoreless – which wouldn't have been a bad result for the Blues to take to Sweden next week – Waterworth struck.

"I was happy with the finish," added Waterworth. "They are the ones I like. The ball fell for me and I hit it sweetly.

"Maybe it was meant to be with it being our 100th game in Europe.

"It's nice to give the fans something to smile about and we have something to play for now.

"We aren't going there just to play out the tie which is great because a lot of people didn't give us a chance.

"We were quietly confident, but also realistic as they are a massive club.

"We just wanted to do ourselves and the club justice and I think we did that.

"I thought it was a very disciplined performance from the whole team. Jamie Richards is a young player, but he was very solid up against internationals.

"European games are very different to Irish League ones as you are up against massive clubs. Everyone had to play their part to get the win."

Keeping a clean sheet in the return leg would be enough for the Blues to book their place in the third round, where they would most likely face FC Astana of Kazakhstan.

A Linfield goal in Solna would leave the home side needing to score three times to deny Feeney's men a meeting with Astana, who hold a 3-0 first-leg lead from their tie with Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Clitonville also know their next opponents, should they pull off an against-the-odds win over Hungarian champions Debrecen.

FC Bate of Belarus – who beat Linfield in 2011 – and Albanian side KS Skenderbeu drew 0-0 in their first leg – the same as the Reds.

Crusaders' 4-0 defeat to Swedish side Brommapojkarna makes a clash with Italian giants Torino unlikely.

Should Derry City turnaround their 1-0 deficit against Shakhtyar Soligorsk of Belarus they would face Belgian side Waragem or Zawisza Bydgoszcz from Poland.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph