By Kestutis Gimbutas
FK Atlantas defeated Rhyl FC tonight, but it was the Welsh team who advanced through a round of European competition for the first time thanks to the away goals rule.
Rhyl won 2-1 a fortnight ago, and having gone out to Skonto FC in their European debut in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League, had a happy night in Lithuania despite trailing in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round tie for 20 minutes.
The game started with attacks from both sides and the first goal arrived when Aivaras Laurišas earned the home side a penalty after just 14 minutes. Atlantas captain Dainius Žernys duly converted the spot-kick to give his team an away-goals advantage.
However, just three minutes later Žernys's evening turned sour as he was sent off for a foul. Gradually, Rhyl took the upper hand, seized the middle of the pitch and started to create chances. One of them was converted by Gregory Stones, who headed in accurately after meeting a cross from the left just after the half-hour mark.
After the break, the ten men of Atlantas pushed forward, while Rhyl put their faith in counterattacking football. The visitors' tactics paid off on 62 minutes when Gary Powell gave his side the lead on the night with a neat shot from 16 metres out. It did not take Atlantas long to respond, though, as Rimantas Žvingylas hit the post and Laurišas slotted in the rebound.
With 12 minutes left, Andrius Peterikis prodded the ball in after a goalmouth scramble, but after that Atlantas were unable to find the other strike they needed. Rhyl can now look forward to Friday's second qualifying round draw as the first Welsh team to win a UEFA Cup tie since Barry Town AFC in 1996/97.