FH survive Ekranas scare to advance

FH Hafnarfjördur 2-1 FK Ekranas (agg: 3-1) Leading from the first leg, the Icelandic champions had to come from behind on the night to confirm their place in the third qualifying round.

FH celebrate a goal against Ekranas
FH celebrate a goal against Ekranas ©www.sport.is

FH Hafnarfjördur sealed their progress to the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round with a come-from-behind victory over FK Ekranas.

The Icelandic title holders won last week's first leg in Lithuania 1-0 but had cause for concern when Arsenij Buinickij nullified that advantage in the 26th minute of tonight's second-round decider. However, Björn Sverrisson conjured a first-half equaliser for Heimir Gudjónsson's team and, with Ekranas reduced to ten men by Óscar Reyes's 52nd-minute dismissal, FH finally confirmed their win with substitute Atli Björnsson scoring in stoppage time.

Initially it had promised to be a comfortable evening for Hafnarfjördur and Emil Palsson wasted an early chance to consolidate their lead in the tie. But Buinickij's successfully converted penalty, after a Pétur Vidarsson foul on Egidijus Varnas, brought Arvydas Skrupskis's men level on aggregate. Within 12 minutes of Ekranas's surprise strike, though, home nerves were eased as Sverrisson, teed up by Gudmann Thorisson's header, slid in to make it 1-1 on the night.

A further blow followed for the Lithuanian champions shortly after the restart as Reyes was red-carded for a professional foul on Björnsson, with the home striker racing through for a one-on-one. To their credit, the numerically reduced visitors continued to push players forward, yet they encountered a solid FH defence in which centre-back Thorisson excelled.

The hosts always threatened on the counter, however, with Atli Gudnason a particular menace. After a close-range miss by Kristjan Gauti Emilsson, FH eventually made sure of their success with yet another raid originating in their own half – this one in the 92nd minute. When Ekranas committed goalkeeper Tadas Kauneckas up front for a free-kick, the set piece fell into his opposite number Róbert Óskarsson's hands and the Hafnarfjördur custodian kicked long for Björnsson to score into an unguarded net.