Linfield FC manager Warren Feeney was left speechless after the Belfast club celebrated a special European landmark with a 1-0 UEFA Europa League victory over AIK Solna at Mourneview Park.
In what was the club's 100th game in Europe, supersub Andy Waterworth was the last-gasp hero, racing clear to rifle home an 87th-minute winner, and secure only the club's 17th continental success."I'm a bit lost for words," said Feeney. "It was an historic night for the club and the players responded with a phenomenal performance and result.
"We were well aware it was the club's 100th game in Europe," noted Feeney. "I suppose that brought some pressure, but the players produced one of the best performances I have seen in my time in football. AIK are second in the Swedish league, they had a lot of internationals in their team and also Celso Borges who has just returned from the World Cup with Costa Rica."
Blues striker Waterworth, who came on as a replacement for Peter Thompson 13 minutes before grabbing the winner, added: "It was an outstanding result and I was delighted to score on such an historic night for the club. Not many gave us a chance, but we were quietly confident we could surprise a few people. Everyone was talking about Linfield's 100th game in Europe, so maybe this win was meant to be."
The club's 100 games include 96 in UEFA competition; 63 in the European Champion Clubs' Cup and UEFA Champions League, 27 in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League and six in the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Their remaining four games were played in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – the non-UEFA affiliated ancestor of the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League.
Linfield's first foray into Europe was 55 years ago, when a team coached by legendary Newcastle United FC striker Jackie Milburn suffered a 7-3 aggregate defeat to IFK Göteborg of Sweden in the 1959/60 European Cup. The Windsor Park outfit's record in Europe now reads: P100 W17 D29 L54.
"We were big underdogs, but I had a quiet feeling we could cause a shock," said Feeney of the AIK game. "The desire and quality the players showed was phenomenal and the longer it went on, the more confident I was that we could win. It's only half-time in the tie and the return leg in Sweden will be a different ball game. It'll be tough, but we'll go there in a positive frame of mind. We'll look forward to it."
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