Belfast Telegraph

'Proud to say the least': David Healy hails another huge night at Windsor as Linfield earn Europa League win over Qarabag

Linfield boss David Healy created another special night at Windsor Park.
Linfield boss David Healy created another special night at Windsor Park.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

He's the man who can work the Windsor pen better than any other. David Healy has pulled off his script-writing magic once again in south Belfast.

England, Spain, Sweden; all came, all were conquered by Northern Ireland's record goal-scorer.

Now former Champions League group stage participants Qarabag have been thwarted by Healy, this time as Linfield manager.

More used to playing at European arenas like the Emirates, the Stadio Olympico and the Wanda Metropolitano, the Azerbaijan champions have been defeated at Windsor Park.

It's a result that will go down in Irish League folklore, remembered forever by the 4,500 Blues' fans that watched on as Shayne Lavery made a mug of Azerbaijan international Abbas Huseynov to add to his own and Mark Stafford's first half headers and put Linfield into a 3-1 lead. Incredible, even if a late penalty did halve the advantage.

For Healy, it was up there with all of his now legendary nights at the stadium.

"Pleased, to say the least," he beamed. "When you're 1-0 down after 15 minutes against a team like Qarabag, you fear the worst. I actually had to double-check if they had squeezed an extra body or two on, it looked as if we were being overloaded in every area of the pitch.

"Massive, massive credit to the players. We rode our luck a few times but we stayed disciplined. Of course they're going to create chances because you have to give up possession to a team like that. There were times during the first half when Shayne and Bastien (Hery) went chasing the ball when they didn't need to.

"Huge credit to the players because what they had to withstand and the way they bounced back with the appetite, energy and the goals.

"I love Linfield scoring set-play goals. Stafford's a threat. The ball from Mitchell was a very enticing ball for a player of Stafford's quality.

"The second one, Shayne Lavery wouldn't be ear-marked for scoring a header the way he did but his goals, his performance epitomised everything about the players.

"I've had big nights at Windsor, leaving here proud as punch and feeling as if you're on top of the world as an individual getting results against big nations. But to see the level of commitment and performance...the supporters came out in huge numbers and got right behind the players. The players didn't disappoint them.

"I don't think there has been a team like that in Belfast for a number of years and we turned them over."

"They....we".

At one stage, Healy stuttered as he eventually, perhaps reluctantly, included himself in his assessment of what's been achieved.

Always one to pass on the praise, more and more will come his way with every notable result.

This one will take some beating, but anything that secures a group stage spot next week would just about do it.

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