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As it happened: Linfield beaten by Zalgiris Vilnius but Christy Manzinga's goal gives hope after first leg of Champions League tie

Zalgiris Vilnius 3-1 Linfield


Christy Manzinga (left) scored for Linfield in Lithuania.

Christy Manzinga (left) scored for Linfield in Lithuania.


David Healy

David Healy


Christy Manzinga (left) scored for Linfield in Lithuania.

Linfield lost out 3-1 at Zalgiris Vilnius in their Champions League first qualifying round first leg.

Trailing 2-0 at the break, Christy Manzinga netted his second European goal for the Blues before an unfortunate own goal off goalkeeper Chris Johns restored the Lithuanian side's two-goal advantage ahead of next week's second leg.

This was always going to be a tough outing for Linfield but for 37 minutes, they held their own and even struck the bar through lone striker Manzinga. He was played in by a superb curling through-ball from captain Jamie Mulgrew and, up on his own, had no option but to shoot from a narrow angle, his well-struck shot crashing off the crossbar.

However, they could hold out no longer and the deadlock was broken when Hugo Videmont curled a superb free-kick beyond Chris Johns.

It went from bad to worse on the stroke of half-time when Tomislav Kis sent his penalty into the opposite top corner. But should it have been a penalty as Stephen Fallon was adjudged to have handled? Linfield will feel it was harsh on the midfielder, while the referee will point to his arm being in an unnatural position when the cross struck it - a point that will no doubt be debated.

Linfield responded in fine fashion on 54 minutes with Fallon at the centre as his shot took a wicked deflection, catching out goalkeeper Edvinas Gertmonas, who could only palm the squirming shot into the path of a grateful Manzinga to slam home.

If that breathed fresh life into the tie then the night's final goal sucked a little bit back out again as the unfortunate Chris Johns could do little when Jakub Sylvestr's header crashed off the post before hitting the keeper and crossing the line.

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The hosts could have scored more but for top defending from the likes of Jimmy Callacher, Michael Newberry and new signing Chris Shields, who was handed his debut in midfield.

All in all, it was hard-working display by the visitors, who will have wanted to offer more through their own attacking set-pieces.

A two-goal deficit at least keeps the dream of progression alive at the midway point in the tie. Remember, of course, that the away goals rule is no longer at play in UEFA competition this season.

Making it through to the second qualifying round would be important, too, as it would leave the Blues just one more round victory away from the group stages of one competition or another.

If they exit the Champions League in QR2, they would go into the Europa League QR3. Defeat there and they would be in the Europa Conference League play-offs, one round from the groups. Win in the Europa League QR3 and Linfield would be guaranteed a group stage spot in either the EL or the ECL.

However, if Linfield exit at the hands of Zalgiris Vilnius, they'll go straight to the Europa Conference League second qualifying round, three wins away from the group stage.

The second leg of this tie is at Windsor Park next Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm) and once again we'll bring you live updates.

Here's the game as it happened:

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