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Ballymena almost get lucky break from Malmo's red card at Chelsea

 

Rasmus Bengtsson
Rasmus Bengtsson

By Graham Luney

Irish League clubs have been guilty of a few eligibility blunders over the years but Ballymena United were close to benefiting from a Malmo mistake on Thursday night.

The Swedish giants discovered just before they handed their teamsheet to the Uefa match officials that defender Rasmus Bengtsson was not allowed to feature.

Malmo representatives had overlooked the fact that the centre-back was suspended following his dismissal against Chelsea in February.

The 33-year-old was sent off at Stamford Bridge as the Blues won 3-0, sealing a 5-1 aggregate Europa League triumph.

Malmo went on to hammer Ballymena United 7-0 in the first qualifying round first leg in Sweden but the smiles would have been wiped off their faces had Bengtsson been included in the matchday squad.

Just minutes before the teamsheets were due to be forwarded, manager Uwe Rosler learned that Bengtsson was ineligible.

The club's sports assistant Anne-Maj Jonsson spotted the error and former Leeds and Brentford boss Rosler admitted his plans for the Europa League clash endured a late scare.

"It is our mistake and we are all responsible for it, including me," he said. "We are very grateful that we got the right information before we went out with the squad.

"Rasmus was not allowed to play because of the red card he got in the match against Chelsea.

"We had a 20-man group and we took it down to 18 but minutes before we were to hand in the squad we were told that Rasmus was suspended. It was last year's tournament, but of course a mistake not to keep track of it. A mistake by many, not least myself. God bless that we got the right information minutes before submitting the teams."

Rosler had indicated in his pre-match press conference that only Jonas Knudsen would miss the match.

There was a lot less drama when the match got under way as the Sky Blues were swept aside by the slick Swedes.

Markus Rosenberg bagged a hat-trick and further goals from Erdal Rakip (2), Franz Brorsson and Guillermo Molins sealed the empathic win.

Rosler was impressed with the professional approach of both his men and the Sky Blues.

"The goals flew in, we had a chance after chance and played at a high ball speed," he said.

"We played professionally and showed humility throughout the game, just as Ballymena showed respect when they walked around and applauded our supporters. An amazing gesture!"

The results leaves Ballymena with only pride to play for in next Thursday's second leg at the Showgrounds.

But United, who won their first ever European tie when they conquered NSI Runavik 2-0 on aggregate, will pocket £413,000 prizemoney.

• It will be a memorable day for Crusaders ace Declan Caddell when a young Rangers side visit Seaview this afternoon for the midfielder's testimonial.

The match, which kicks off at 3pm, is a fitting tribute to the 31-year-old's 12 years with the Shore Road club.

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