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Start's spot-kick bonanza

Statisticians were left scratching their heads as IK Start celebrated an 11-10 penalty shoot-out victory against Drogheda United FC in the UEFA Cup.

Statisticians were left scratching their heads as IK Start celebrated an 11-10 penalties victory over Drogheda United FC in the UEFA Cup last week.

Mammoth shootout
With the two sides having traded 1-0 home wins in their second qualifying round tie, 30 minutes of extra time in the Republic of Ireland failed to separate them, setting the scene for a shoot-out that saw all eleven players on both teams take a spot-kick. Drogheda's Graham Gartland and Start's Alex Valencia missed their efforts, forcing the drama into sudden death, and with all 22 players having had their chance, the two sides had to start again. The luckless Gartland miscued once more and Stefan Bärlin duly scored the winner for the Norwegian visitors.

Almost there
On Friday morning, the talk among UEFA staff and amateur statisticians was whether this had been the highest-scoring shoot-out in UEFA competition history. After hours of exhaustive research, Europe had its answer: almost. Two previous matches in UEFA youth tournaments ended with even more laborious penalty kicks, while one senior club game equalled Start and Drogheda's epic. That was Skonto FC's meeting with NK Olimpija Ljubljana in the preliminary round for the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League.

Troickis winner
Similar to the Start-Drogheda tie, the two teams traded 1-0 away victories before enduring a fruitless period of extra time and moving to penalties. Both goalkeepers, Olimpija's Marko Simeunovič and Skonto's Raimonds Laizans, found the target with Igors Troickis scoring the sudden-death decider for the Latvian club. That 11-10 success clearly took a lot out of Skonto. They tackled Russian giants FC Spartak Moskva in the first round and lost 9-0 on aggregate - hardly just reward for having made their own piece of European history.

Northern Ireland win
Details of earlier shoot-outs are thinner on the ground, but the UEFA competitions system records a 1992 UEFA European Under-16 Championship tie between Northern Ireland and Iceland that concluded in a 12-11 penalties triumph for the host nation in Belfast, after the sides had swapped 2-1 wins. That victory took Northern Ireland to the finals, and it was at the finals of the UEFA European U18 Championship, on 22 July 1992, that another such marathon occurred. Following a 1-1 aggregate draw in the semi-finals, Portugal required a 12-11 success to overcome England. They then lost 2-1 to Turkey in the final.

Some beating
So as Drogheda drown their sorrows and Start prepare for their first-round showdown with AFC Ajax, both can reflect on a job reasonably well done. They may not have participated in the highest-scoring UEFA penalties drama ever, but they have set a UEFA Cup record that will take some beating.