Sky Blues sign off Euro adventure with defeat
Ballymena Utd 0 Malmo 4 (Malmo win 11-0 on aggregate)
Ballymena United's European adventure came to its inevitable end - but the Sky Blues bowed out of the Europa League with their heads held high.
The Irish League side produced a spirited performance in front of their home fans but couldn't prevent the classy Swedish league leaders from adding four more goals to the seven they plundered a week ago.
Despite the tie being over from the first leg, Malmo boss Uwe Rosler afforded Ballymena the respect of fielding seven of the XI which had started the game in Sweden.
However, there was no place for 33 times-capped Swedish striker Marcus Rosenberg - a hat-trick hero from the first leg - who wasn't included in the matchday squad.
Ballymena made several changes from the side defeated in the Swedbank Stadion, with defender Jonny Addis making his first appearance after returning from honeymoon, while there were first starts in Europe for Ryan Mayse, Shane McGinty, Ryan Harpur and Andrew Burns.
After a bright opening from the home side, it was Malmo who has the first sight of goal on 10 minutes when Erdal Rakip fizzed a shot narrowly wide of the post.
Andy McGrory replied for Ballymena with a free kick but although his effort curled over the wall, keeper Dusan Melicharek was confident enough to let the ball drift past. The home side came close on 20 minutes when Kofi Balmer's pass found Ryan Mayse who swivelled before his shot struck the base of the post but the raised flag of the referee's assistant would have cut short any celebrations.
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But the deadlock was eventually broken in spectacular fashion on 27 minutes. A Malmo corner was only half cleared and the ball eventually found its way to the corner taker, Behrang Safari, and the former Swedish international took one step before unleashing a 25-yard thunderbolt into the top corner of the net.
Ballymena threatened again on 40 minutes when a short corner found its way back to taker Steven McCullough whose cross was spectacularly punched behind by Melicharek.
Guillermo Molins - who also scored in the first leg - helped himself to another on 52 minutes when he produced a sumptuous touch to earn himself a yard of space in the penalty area before neatly dinking the ball over the advancing Ross Glendinning.
There was an unusual delay just short of the hour mark when a faulty water sprinkler came on in the Malmo goalmouth with visiting keeper Melincharek's efforts to stop it causing merriment among the home fans!
The visitors reached double figures on aggregate on 68 minutes when Erdal Rakip ran onto a through ball a clipped the ball past Glendinning.
The home side had their clearest sight of goal on 74 minutes when an intricate build-up saw Ryan Mayse cut the ball back but the inrushing Shane McGinty blasted his shot over.
Malmo added a fourth goal on 78 minutes when the Finnish referee spotted an infringement from a corner. Romain Gall sent Glendinning the wrong way from the penalty spot.
McGinty had another chance to put Ballymena on the scoresheet but his shot deflected off a defender and was easily saved by Melincharek, while another McCullough cross brought a spectacular stop from the Czech keeper.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Glendinning, Balmer, Addis (sub Kelly 75), Burns, McGrory, McCullough, Millar, McGinty, Harpur (sub Lavery 70), Mayse, Lecky (sub Cathair Friel 71). Subs (not used): Connor Friel, Whiteside, Winchester, Ervin.
MALMO FF: Melicharek, Nielsen, Brorsson, Safari, Lewicki (sub Rieks 68), Berget, Rakip (sub Christiansen 74), Innocent, Gall, Antonsson, Molins (sub Prica 61). Subs (not used): Dahlin, Bachirou, Bengtsson, Shabani.
Referee: Kaarlo Hamalainen (Finland)
Match rating: 7/10
Man of match: Guillermo Molins (Malmo