Glentoran FC continued the Northern Irish Premier Division's unsuccessful recent run in European club competition on Wednesday, HJK Helsinki of Finland emerging triumphant in this first qualifying round tie courtesy of a lone goal.
In a game of few clear chances, the team from east Belfast went close to taking the lead on the stroke of half-time when midfield player Colin Nixon saw his 25-metre effort well saved.
However, apart from Nixon's effort HJK goalkeeper András Vilnrotter was rarely tested. At the other end, Glentoran's Northern Ireland Under-21 keeper Elliott Morris performed particularly well before the break, with the pick of his saves a 19th-minute effort which denied Toni Kallio.
In the second half it was HJK who held their nerve. With the spectre of extra time threatening, they finally snatched the tie's first, and decisive, goal in the 73rd minute courtesy of forward Juho Mäkelä's tap-in after Morris failed to hold a Mika Kottila shot.
Turpeinen sent off
With six minutes left Aarno Turpeinen was sent off for punching Darren Lockhart but, despite a late rally, Glentoran could not force an equaliser. Nevertheless manager Roy Coyle was not too downhearted after the the game. "I thought we competed well and played good football," he said. "It is just a pity we could not get the result."
MTK await HJK
It is now eight years since a team from Northern Ireland have made it through the UEFA Cup or Champions League qualifiers. For the Finnish champions it was a highly successful evening though, and they can now look ahead to a second qualifying round encounter against MTK Hungária FC.
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