As the countdown to Thursday night’s return clash with Haugesund continues, our latest retrospective steps back nine years to Cliftonville’s first ever fixture in the Europa League.
For it was on this day in 2010 that the Reds overcame HNK Cibalia in a Second Qualifying Round first leg battle at Windsor Park, where Ciaran Caldwell’s second-half strike proved sufficient for victory both on the night and in the tie.
Visiting goalkeeper Mladen Matkovic was lucky to avoid an early red card when he handled outside the box in attempting to stop Chris Scannell capitalising on a defensive mix-up and, from the resulting free-kick, George McMullan clattered the post before debutant Stephen Garrett steered his rebound over the top.
Matkovic proved a key figure as the contest progressed, making important saves from Scannell, McMullan and Liam Boyce, but was powerless to prevent Cliftonville taking a deserved lead when, eight minutes from time, Scannell won an aerial duel and seized upon a Boyce backheel to steer the ball into Caldwell’s path and he made no mistake with a cool finish in front of a delirious Red Army in the Kop.
Seven days later, a smaller – but no less enthused – band of supporters were celebrating again when a scoreless draw in the return game in Vinkovci saw Cliftonville through to the next phase at the much-fancied Croatians’ expense.
Cliftonville: Connolly, R Scannell, B Holland, Donaghy, M Holland, McMullan, C Scannell, Garrett, Caldwell, Boyce, Catney.
Subs: McKane, O’Hara, Smyth, O’Connor (for C Scannell), Patterson (for Boyce).
Today also marks the anniversary of another notable result on the European stage when, in 2014, in the last Champions League encounter to be played at Solitude to date, the Reds were held by Debrecen of Hungary.
Again, the man between the opposition’s posts demonstrated his talents with Nehad Novakovic thwarting Chris Curran and Joe Gormley, although the hosts heaved a sigh of relief when Ibrahima Sidibe struck the crossbar when the opening goal seemed inevitable.
Curran was denied again later in the game before a superb last-gasp tackle stopped captain Ronan Scannell – playing in an unfamiliar midfield role – from putting Cliftonville in front; a potentially pivotal moment in a tie that Debrecen would eventually win 2-0 courtesy of two second-half goals at the Nagyerdei Stadion the following week.
Cliftonville: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, Johnston, Flynn, Curran, Donnelly, Seydak, Catney, Gormley, Cosgrove.
Subs: Brown, McMullan (for Seydak), Garrett (for Donnelly), Smyth, Winchester, Murray (for Gormley), Caldwell.