Debutants in European competition this term, Stjarnan's maiden campaign reached unanticipated heights on Wednesday night as the club hosted the biggest game in their history when three-time European Cup winners FC Inernazionale Milano arrived in Iceland for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
After Stjarnan battled through to this stage undefeated from the first qualifying round, the Nerazzurri brought a sense of realism to proceedings with a 3-0 success. However, the result barely dented the air of exuberance and pride around the competition's lowest ranked club, who are still enjoying the prospect of next week's trip to San Siro.
Mauro Icardi's first-half goal was added to by Dodô and Danilo D'Ambrosio after the interval to give the Italian side a comfortable advantage. The Icelandic side certainly did not disgrace themselves, and coach Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson led a cast of fans, players and even government ministers in lavishing the club with praise for exceeding expectations and uniting Iceland's football community.
Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson, Stjarnan coach
My boys played well, did what was planned with a disciplined defence and it worked well in the first half – Inter did not get that many chances. We knew before the game we would be under pressure and tried to stop their attacking tactics but got clumsy and they scored.
They got a second when one of their players was left unmarked, therefore we had to push forward to create chances, which opened up our defence. Looking back I am pleased with my players and our fans. We will now go to Italy and try our best, enjoy the game and it will be great adventure playing against this big club in their big stadium.
Ólafur Karl Finsen, Stjarnan forward
I am not happy now, maybe later, but now we are frustrated about the game. I think when Inter scored the first goal we lost our belief and we could have done better. Maybe we tried to be too direct, rather than playing football.
Atli Jóhannesson, Stjarnan midfielder
We kept up with them for a long time but they got lucky in scoring their first goal just before half-time and it was very bad when they scored the second. That broke us a little bit and you cannot do that against a team like Inter as you will be punished. The 3-0 was not unfair, but unnecessary as we should have stopped their third goal. I have to praise the fans and thank them for their support.
Bjarni Benediktsson, former Stjarnan defender and now Iceland's Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs
I think first and foremost the game was great entertainment and a great occasion for all Stjarnan fans. Naturally, the other team were much better but our men showed good attributes; strong in defence and they had a few chances to score. I am very proud of my team and this was a great festival for us. I will go and see the game at San Siro and of course Stjarnan players can come into that game relaxed and allow themselves to come forward a bit more, but mostly enjoy playing football.
Almar Gudmundsson, Stjarnan chairman
I am very proud that we filled all the seats in Iceland's biggest stadium, almost 10,000 were here who all supported Stjarnan which was great and our boys did well. We could see that members of other clubs in Iceland also supported Stjarnan, we could feel that empathy which we need in our little country. We could also see we are a little behind against big clubs like Inter but not that far behind.
Karl Birgisson, member of Stjarnan's Silverspoon fan club
We just planned to support our team but got great support from others and I think today's support was more than even our national team normally gets. There has been a holiday spirit in Gardabær [Stjarnan's home town] and everybody planned the whole day and had a great time. Everywhere we have been going today we heard support so I think it was not only the club behind the team today, but the whole country.
Sigmundur Hermundsson, 74-year-old club employee
I have seen many, many games with Stjarnan over the decades working for the club but this was by far the biggest event of all. It was amazing just sitting at the stadium and listening to 10,000 Gardabær folk screaming at the top of their lungs. I do not expect to experience this again.
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