20 Jul 2023
© Pacemaker Press

Linfield safely progressed to the next round of the UEFA Europa Conference League despite losing their second leg tie to KF Vllaznia in Albania.

The Blues held a strong 3-1 advantage going into the game but knew their hosts would be going all out in an attempt to claw back that two-goal deficit.

And so it proved with efforts from Lorik Boshnjaku and Esin Hakaj signalling their intent early on while Mhedi Coba dragged a later effort narrowly wide.

Vllaznia did have the ball in the net in the latter stages of the first half but Coba's finish was ruled out for handball.

However, they finally pulled a goal back nine minutes after the break when Bekim Balaj directed a strong header past keeper Chris Johns.

But still needing another goal to force extra-time, Vllaznia maintained the pressure on the Linfield defence but other than another Balaj header they failed to really threaten Johns' goal.

Linfield will face Polish side Pogon Szczecin in the Second Qualifying Round. The first leg, at Windsor Park, is scheduled for Thursday 27th July with the return a week later.