Watch: Kirk Millar nets spectacular winner as double helps Linfield to crucial Europa League win
FK Sutjeska 1 Linfield 2
A stunning Kirk Millar double last night fired Linfield closer to a dream Europa League play-off spot.
A 2-1 win at the home of Montenegrin champions FK Sutjeska in Podgorica has given David Healy's side a golden chance to face either Azerbaijan's Qarabag or Apoel Nicosia of Cyprus for the right to play in the Europa League group stages.
The Blues will face the losers of that tie, with Qarabag winning the first leg 2-1 in Cyprus last night.
It was a brilliant team performance from the Blues, though Millar weaved the most magic with his second goal in the 65th minute a moment of individual brilliance.
Linfield, without the injured Andy Waterworth, fell behind in the third round qualifier first leg when Damir Kojasevic powered home a free-kick in the 11th minute, but Millar's killer touch on 38 and 65 minutes turned the heat up on the home side in humid conditions, with temperatures hitting 32 degrees.
Healy, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday, will stress it's only half-time, but he will be quietly confident his men can finish the job at Windsor Park on Tuesday.
After losing to Rosenborg in the Champions League, the Blues overcame HB Torshavn from the Faroe Islands and now Sutjeska are on the ropes.
Linfield are already assured of £1m from their European campaign so far and making the group stages would land them around four times that.
Matthew Clarke and Chris Casement both picked up early bookings as the visitors felt the heat in the early stages.
Linfield were given an early warning when Bojan Bozovic blasted his effort over the bar, but the hosts did make the breakthrough on 11 minutes.
A wonderful, long-range curling free-kick from Kojasevic sailed past keeper Rohan Ferguson at the Gradski Stadion.
Linfield were weathering an early storm as the home side looked to extend their advantage, but Healy's men did threaten on the half-hour when Shayne Lavery directed a cross from Clarke wide of the target.
Just after Mark Stafford made a big goal-line clearance, the Blues netted a crucial away goal.
Lavery's effort was blocked by keeper Vlado Giljen but Millar hammered the rebound home on 38 minutes.
The goal that has us level at the break 🔴⚪️🔵 pic.twitter.com/H2wdBr68T6— Linfield FC (@OfficialBlues) August 6, 2019
Sutjeska looked dangerous in spells but the goal gave Linfield confidence and they finished the half strongly.
Both sides threatened after the restart with Kojasevic looking to strike again, while at the other end Lavery was dangerous on the left wing.
In the 65th minute it was Millar time again. The winger collected a pass from Bastien Hery and lifted the ball over Giljen to fire Linfield in front.
The frustrated hosts struggled to hit back against a hard working and composed Blues.
It's advantage Linfield and their remarkable European adventure could continue with a shot at making the groups.
• Coleraine have confirmed the signing of Emmett McGuckin from Bluefin Sport Championship side Dergview.
The striker has signed a two-year deal at the Showgrounds.
FK SUTJESKA: Giljen; Ciger, Sofranac, Nedic, Bulatovic; Erakovic (Bubanja, 68 mins), Jankovic; Kojalevic, Cetkovic, Vucic (Vlaisavljevic, 81 mins); Bozovic (Nikolic, 45 mins).
Subs not used: Licina, Grivic, Petrovikj, Marusic.
LINFIELD: Ferguson; Casement, McGivern, Stafford, Clarke; Fallon (Mitchell, 83 mins), Mulgrew; Millar (Stewart, 86 mins), Hery (Kearns, 90 mins), Quinn; Lavery.
Subs not used: Moore, Larkin, Forde, Hume.
Man of the Match: Kirk Millar (Linfield)
Match Rating: 7/10
Referee: Georgi Yordanov (Bulgaria)
Belfast Telegraph Digital