Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville beat Glentoran in Europa League play-off final

By Adam McKendry

Cliftonville will be in Europe next season after they defeated Glentoran 3-2 at Solitude to win their Europa League play-off final.

Joe Gormley's strike five minutes from time handed Barry Gray's men the win, with Rory Donnelly's double seeing off the Glens, who fought back late in the second half through goals from Robbie McDaid and Curtis Allen.

Curtis Allen, usually so prolific in front of goal, should have had the Glens ahead in the 13th minute when Garry Breen's short backpass dropped right at the striker’s feet, however he whiffed on the angled shot and Brian Neeson easily saved.

Instead it was Rory Donnelly who opened the scoring in the 24th minute in controversial circumstances for the Reds, the striker turning and rifling home a brilliant shot from an uncleared corner despite Glentoran’s claims he controlled the ball with his hand.

And the controversy continued when the hosts had what they felt was a good second goal chalked off for offside by referee Keith Kennedy just before the break – the man in the middle overruling his linesman’s decision not to flag when Joe Gormley swept home Jay Donnelly’s deflected shot.

Gormley again came close to doubling the lead ten minutes into the second half as Jamie Harney nodded Chris Curran’s corner back into his path, but Gormley could only find the crossbar from close range with his nodded effort.

But they wouldn’t have to wait long for their second, which came in the 63rd minute, Curran playing a stunning ball in behind to Gormley and his ball across the face of goal was turned in by the lurking Donnelly, who won’t mind that the finish wasn’t his tidiest.

Elliott Morris then had to be alert to make an excellent double save from Rory Donnelly and Gormley, the veteran stopper diving low to his right to deny the former before getting back up and flinging himself in front of the latter’s follow up.

But in a crazy seven minute spell, the game threatened to flip on its head.

First came the Glentoran fight back in stunning fashion, Robbie McDaid powering home at the near post from a low cross in the 78th minute before Allen levelled from the penalty spot four minutes later when McDaid was shoved over by Breen in a challenge for the ball.

With five minutes to go, however, Gormley struck the killer blow. Chris Curran was again involved, the ball dropping to him at the back post, his ball to the middle found Gormley unmarked on the six yard line, and his hammered finish ensured Barry Gray’s men will be in Europe next season.

Relive all the action right here:

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