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Linfield face Bosnia trip in Europa Conference League after Zalgiris Vilnius oust Blues from Champions League

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Jimmy Callacher embodies Linfield's frustration as Zalgiris Vilnius scored two first-half goals in the Champions League. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Jimmy Callacher embodies Linfield's frustration as Zalgiris Vilnius scored two first-half goals in the Champions League. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas (right) celebrates opening the scores at Windsor Park. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas (right) celebrates opening the scores at Windsor Park. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

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Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, second leg match at Windsor Park, Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday July 13, 2021. PA Photo. See PA Story SOCCER Linfield. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
 
RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, second leg match at Windsor Park, Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday July 13, 2021. PA Photo. See PA Story SOCCER Linfield. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

PA

Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, second leg match at Windsor Park, Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday July 13, 2021. PA Photo. See PA Story SOCCER Linfield. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
 
RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Zalgiris' Saulius Mikoliunas celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, second leg match at Windsor Park, Belfast. Picture date: Tuesday July 13, 2021. PA Photo. See PA Story SOCCER Linfield. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

PA

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Jimmy Callacher embodies Linfield's frustration as Zalgiris Vilnius scored two first-half goals in the Champions League. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Linfield are set for a trip to Bosnia in the Europa Conference League after being beaten by Zalgiris Vilnius in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

David Healy's side went down 5-2 on aggregate after losing the second leg 2-1 at Windsor Park, summer signing Chris Shields opening his account with a second-half penalty.

The result and first qualifying round exit from the Champions League means Linfield bypass the Europa League altogether, dropping straight into the new Europa Conference League, where they narrowly avoided being pitted against three-time Champions League group stage side CFR Cluj.

Cluj were stunned by Borac Banja Luka, a 2-0 win for the Bosnians in normal time sending the tie to extra-time. Just when it looked like it was heading to penalties, Cluj snatched a last minute winner to earn a 4-3 aggregate success and send Banja Luka into the Conference League to face Linfield.

It's a much more palatable tie for the Blues, facing Borac; a side who have never made it beyond the second qualifying round in either the Champions League or Europa League rather than Cluj; a team that made the Champions League proper in 2008, 2010 and 2012, runs that included wins over Manchester United and Roma as well as a draw with Chelsea.

Linfield will host the first leg against Borac Banja Luka next Thursday (July 22) before travelling to Bosnia for the second leg a week later on July 29.

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The Blues trailed 2-0 at the break on Tuesday evening thanks to two sumptuous strikes by the visitors.

Saulius Mikoliunas was first to net with a low finish smashed into the bottom corner from a half-cleared corner. That was on 17 minutes and the second followed a minute before the break, Ogenyi Onazi bettering his team-mate's effort from an almost identical spot, his effort whizzing across Chris Johns and perfectly into the top corner.

That took the aggregate score to 5-1 and left Linfield requiring four second-half goals to progress.

Just as it seemed the game may be petering to a conclusion, Niall Quinn's 65th minute free-kick breathed life into the tie as Jimmy Callacher met it with a looping back post header, kept out by the hand of Zalgiris' Elhadji Pape Diaw. That earned him a red card and Linfield a penalty, which was sent into the bottom corner by Shields.

Linfield pushed but couldn't install real nerves into the closing minutes for their visitors, although there was time left for Karolis Uzela to be shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on the impressive Trai Hume, making his European debut after returning to Linfield from a season-long loan at Ballymena United.

Here's the game as it happened:


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