Sky Blues now fighting for pride as Malmo show class
Malmo 7 Ballymena 0
Swedish giants Malmo turned on the power last night to leave Ballymena United on the brink of exiting the Europa League.
This first qualifying round tie is virtually over, with David Jeffrey's men left to prepare for another tough assignment at the Showgrounds on Thursday.
The Sky Blues managed to shut out the impressive Swedes for half an hour at the Stadion but three goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half burst their bubble and Uwe Rosler's classy side stormed to a 7-0 victory.
Malmo, as expected, were a significant step up in class from NSI Runavik, who were beaten 2-0 on aggregate in the preliminary round.
That was United's first European success and, even though their continental commitments will soon be over, they can reflect proudly on their exploits and welcome the £413,000 prize money that will strengthen their domestic muscle.
Former Swedish international Markus Rosenberg netted twice inside three minutes to put the Allsvenskan leaders in charge, and when Erdal Rakip slotted home in the 43rd minute, the Braidmen were looking at damage limitation.
Rosenberg was in red-hot form for the club who reached the European Cup final in 1979, where they lost to Nottingham Forest.
Malmo, in front of the 8,667 crowd, refused to take their foot off the gas and extended their lead at the start of the second half through a Franz Brorsson header.
Rosenberg's hat-trick arrived in the 48th minute and five minutes later Guillermo Molins made it 6-0. It was a magnificent seven for Rosler's side on 74 minutes when Rakip finished off a slick move.
United lived dangerously from the off as waves of attacks came their way, and they enjoyed a huge let off in the 17th minute when Molins' fierce drive from 20 yards shook the crossbar.
In a rare attack for the visitors, Steven McCullough's dangerous cross just evaded Adam Lecky in the 26th minute.
Just when United looked like gaining composure and confidence, the hosts struck twice.
Rosenberg's powerful header in the 31st minute from a clever delivery broke the deadlock and two minutes later the skipper pounced on a Jude Winchester error to hammer the ball home.
United were floored again in the 43rd minute when Rakip took advantage of a slip from Scot Whiteside.
Brorsson's header less than a minute into the second half was followed by Rosenberg's hat-tick goal from a cool finish.
The ruthless hosts made it 6-0 on 53 minutes when Molins buried a powerful close-range volley.
Former West Brom, Ajax and Werder Bremen ace Rosenberg, who has scored 62 goals in 181 league appearances for Malmo, was taken off in the 58th minute.
The Swedes showed little mercy as Rakip made it 7-0 in the 74th minute, sliding in from close range.