As Cliftonville prepare to tackle Nordsjælland in the first leg of their Europa League First Qualifying Round tie at Solitude tomorrow night, cliftonvillefc.net takes a stroll down Memory Lane to recall our 16 previous home games in European competition.
Our first visitors were FC Nantes Atlantique way back in 1979 as the Reds’ Irish Cup heroes stepped out for the Club’s continental debut exactly 100 years to the day since our formation.
New Manager Jimmy Brown had only been in place a matter of weeks but his charges produced an admirable display and had a John Platt goal disallowed for offside before Gilles Rampillon’s 26th minute strike proved enough to earn the French side a 1-0 victory and, though they travelled confident of turning the tie around in the second leg, Cliftonville’s Cup Winners’ Cup odyssey came crashing down with an emphatic 7-0 mauling.
A further 17 years would elapse before Solitude would next host European football and, thanks to the competition’s primitive group stage format, the 1996 InterToto Cup meant the Reds would have two home games in the opening round.
Standard Liege of Belgium recorded a comfortable 3-0 win before German giants Werder Bremen visited for a contest which was much closer than the 4-1 scoreline indicated; Paul Stokes making history by becoming the first Cliftonville player to register a Euro goal on home turf.
Two years on and Gerry Flynn added his name to that list with a powerful left-footed strike in the 5-1 Champions League loss to FC Kosice, who would boost their tally to the tune of eight come the return meeting a week later.
It was back to the InterToto Cup in 2001 and Moldovan visitors Tiligul Tiraspol, whose 1-0 lead from the first leg was cancelled out by an early Chris Scannell goal but, try as they might, Cliftonville simply could not find a way through for a second and, following the dismissals of Michael Collins and Pat Wall, eventually went down 3-1 after Extra Time.
That would prove Solitude’s last continental action for a decade, though, with both Windsor Park and Glenavon’s Mourneview Park playing ‘home’ to the Reds on the European stage in the interim period.
In 2007, Kieran O’Connor’s debut goal earned a 1-1 draw with FC Dinaburg of Latvia – the elimination of whom from the InterToto earned a shot at KAA Gent, whose 4-0 triumph at the south Belfast venue completed a 6-0 aggregate success.
A year on and Mourneview hosted another 4-0 defeat, this time to Danish giants FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Cup, then it was back to Windsor for the 2010 Europa League, when Ciaran Caldwell struck for a 1-0 victory over HNK Cibalia of Croatia ahead of Liam Boyce netting in a harsh 5-1 aggregate loss to CSKA Sofia in the following round.
In 2011, a redeveloped Solitude made its European return when Welsh Premier League outfit The New Saints visited for a Europa League second leg clash with the tie delicately poised at 1-1 but, despite going close on countless occasions, the Reds were beaten 1-0 to make an early exit from the competition.
Cliftonville’s wait for a first ever continental triumph in BT14 was ended in 2012 when Kalmar were overcome 1-0 before taking care of business back in their native Sweden the following week, with the Reds shut out by Champions League visitors Celtic (0-3) and Debrecen (0-0) in the subsequent two seasons.
Differdange of Luxembourg were dispatched from the Europa League in 2016 when goals from Davy McDaid and Jay Donnelly saw Cliftonville build on Ross Lavery’s dramatic late equaliser at Stade Municipal de la Ville seven days earlier – but the following week saw the Reds concede a European lead in 90 minutes for the first time when, 2-0 up courtesy of Jason McGuinness and Donnelly, they found themselves undone by AEK Larnaca, whose three-goal blast set the stage for them to complete the job in Cyprus next time round.
And so to this week, when Nordsjælland – who boast European away wins over Shirak (Armenia), TVMK (Estonia) and Queen of the South (Scotland) – visit in the hope of avoiding the unwanted distinction of becoming the first Danish side to lose to Cliftonville in UEFA competition.
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