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Linfield and Larne pull off stunning shocks on magical night in Europa Conference League first legs

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Linfield and Larne both pulled off big European upsets on Thursday evening.

Linfield and Larne both pulled off big European upsets on Thursday evening.

It's was celebrations galore during the first halves at Inver and Windsor Park.

It's was celebrations galore during the first halves at Inver and Windsor Park.

Jeff Hughes celebrates Larne's opener at Inver Park (Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Jeff Hughes celebrates Larne's opener at Inver Park (Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Pacemaker Belfast 22-7-21
Linfield v Borac Banja Luka - Europa Conference League Qualifier
Linfield fans in full voice  during this evening's game at Windsor Park, Belfast.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Pacemaker Belfast 22-7-21 Linfield v Borac Banja Luka - Europa Conference League Qualifier Linfield fans in full voice during this evening's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

PMAKER

Pacemaker Belfast 22-7-21
Linfield v Borac Banja Luka - Europa Conference League Qualifier
Linfield's Michael Newberry celebrates his goal  during this evening's game at Windsor Park, Belfast.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Pacemaker Belfast 22-7-21 Linfield v Borac Banja Luka - Europa Conference League Qualifier Linfield's Michael Newberry celebrates his goal during this evening's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

PMAKER

Lee Lynch and Jordan Stewart will be aiming to help fire their sides into promising positions ahead of next week's away legs. Pics: Inpho

Lee Lynch and Jordan Stewart will be aiming to help fire their sides into promising positions ahead of next week's away legs. Pics: Inpho

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Linfield and Larne both pulled off big European upsets on Thursday evening.

It was a magical night for the Irish League's two teams left in European competition, as both upset the odds on home soil.

Linfield smashed fancied Borac 4-0 at Windsor Park after Larne had seen off esteemed Danish opposition AGF Aarhus 2-1 at Inver Park in the Europa Conference League second qualifying round first leg.

The results take the total number of wins by Irish League teams in UEFA competition this summer to four, three of them coming from Larne as they keep their 100% record intact in their first ever European campaign.

If they can complete their jobs away from home next Thursday, places in the third qualifying round await while it would also take Linfield's prize money for the summer up from €810k to €1.11M and Larne's up a further €300k to a total of €850k.

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Here's everything you need to know about the games:

Linfield 4-0 Borac Banja Luka

Linfield have one foot in the third qualifying round after a jaw-dropping 4-0 win at Windsor Park.

Vicitors Borac Banja Luka had been odds-on favourites to leave Belfast with the win but, after goals from Michael Newberry, Jamie Mulgrew, Jimmy Callacher and a stunner from Christy Manzinga, the Blues will take a significant advantage to Bosnia next Thursday (kick-off 7pm).

Linfield took the lead early on as they won a first-minute free-kick and made it pay off. From that set-piece, the ball was shifted wide to the right, from where Trai Hume delivered an absolutely world class half-volleyed delivery that Manzinga glanced at goal, forcing a smart save. However, the keeper couldn't avoid the ball dropping out to Newberry and after his first shot was blocked, his full-pelt finish nearly took the net off its pegs.

The Blues doubled the lead on 25 minutes when Manzinga was played in by a cute ball over the top from Stevie Fallon and the former Motherwell striker looked every bit the quality Linfield need, tricking his way inside his marker and rifling a finish into the top corner.

Borac threatened to halve that lead soon after when Zakaric crossed for Begic but his close range finish was straight at a well-placed Chris Johns.

It was a less eventful second half, which suited Linfield down the ground, especially after the skipper had completed the rout. It was a cool finish from Mulgrew, caressed into the bottom corner after Stevie Fallon's surging run allowed Matthew Clarke to play a low square ball in from the left.

Trai Hume was denied a goal of the season contender on 90 minutes when he dashed into the box and poked an audacious lob over the goalkeeper only to see it headed off the line.

That wasn't to cost Linfield in the end as Jimmy Callacher bulleted a header into the top corner from the resulting corner.

The Blues will take some stopping in the second leg, with the prize of a third qualifying round tie against either Belarusian team Shakhtyor Soligorsk or Luzembourg's Fola Esch on offer if they get through.

Larne 2-1 AGF Aarhus

You could have got odds of 7/1 on Larne to win this match earlier today but if the bookies who set those odds had been watching on at Inver Park, their faces would have been as red as the seats in the stand.

The east Antrim side played their more esteemed visitors off the park and perhaps will feel they should have taken a larger lead into next Thursday's second leg in Denmark (kick-off 6pm), having conceded a poor goal late on after David McDaid and Dean Jarvis' first-half strikes.

They were ahead as early as the second minute as McDaid slammed home. Mark Randall's cross was well headed down by John Herron and it looked for all the world like the captain Jeff Hughes would net but even when he couldn't get a shot away, the goalkeeper could only scoop the ball out to McDaid on the post, where he couldn't miss.

It was two on the half hour mark care of a bullet header from Jarvis, exactly the type of finish that John Herron's teasing cross deserved.

The best the visitors had to offer was halted by Herron, who nipped in at the nick of time when a dangerous ball was cut back into the centre from the left side.

The Inver Park side could even have had a third midway through the second half but Cian Bolger's header went wide as he climbed highest to get on the end of Lee Lynch's corner after Herron's shot had been deflected narrowly wide.

Aarhus scored through an absolute bolt from the blue and what was a poor goal for Larne to concede on 84 minutes as Alexander Anmitzboll chipped in a hopeful effort from wide on the right. Larne stopper Rohan Ferguson got a weak hand to it and when Albert Watson couldn't adjust his feet to hook it clear, the ball squirmed over the line.

That sparked a nervy finish to what was an otherwise stunning Larne display and they'd certainly have bitten your arm off for any sort of lead before kick-off.

It's only half-time in the tie but it's dreamland for Larne.

Here are the games as they happened:


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