UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND, SECOND LEG
FK LIEPAJAS METALURGS 1-2 PRESTATYN TOWN (3-3 on aggregate after extra time)
Prestatyn Town win 4-3 on penalties
In the annals of local footballing history, the Seasiders’ first ever European adventure is already destined to be a landmark as the Welsh Cup holders achieved what seldom few Welsh clubs have managed on the continent.
What made it even more remarkable was that Metalurgs were strong favourites to progress to a meeting with Croatian club HNK Rijeka. The two time Visliga champions had the lead, the home advantage and are in the middle of their league campaign whereas Town had been unlucky to build upon a crucial goal from Andy Parkinson at Belle Vue last Thursday.
It looked to be going that way at the Daugava Stadium as Valerijs Afanasjevs broke the deadlock on 17 minutes with Chris Davies, Greg Stones and Mike Parker all putting headers over the bar. Davies threatened twice just after the break as Town began their push – and to help matters, Metalurgs’ discipline broke down again as Dzintars Zirnis was sent off for his second yellow card. The drive finally paid off as Ross Stephens levelled on 77 minutes before player-boss Neil Gibson blasted home in the 90th minute for the lead on the night and for extra time.
Town were on the front foot throughout with the pick of the chances being Stones’powerful header narrowly denied by the Metalurgs keeper. As the travelling faithful turned up the tempo, it fell to penalties where Dave Roberts denied the first kick from Jurgis Kalns – a goalscorer in Rhyl last Thursday. Town made no mistake before Davis Ikaunieks missed from the spot to confirm an historic Prestatyn victory.
Coach Chris Hughes told the BBC Sport website: ”It’s an unbelievable feeling, it won’t sink in at the moment – most of the lads are just looking at each other now and the managing staff are asking, ‘what have we done?’. We knew we had to score and it didn’t really matter if they scored – we knew we had to get two goals to have a chance of getting back into the tie. We scored a really good first goal and then the second was a great little finish by Neil from a good pull-back from Andy Parkinson.”
Town now have just seven days to prepare for their first visit to the Stadion Kantrida and a Croatian side whose honours include two Croatian Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup quarter final in 1980. The return is a week later at Rhyl’s Belle Vue.