As Cliftonville supporters around the world count down to the team’s long-awaited return to competitive action later today, our mini series of continental anniversaries reflects on a difficult evening in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
Today marks 10 years since the Reds went head-to-head with CSKA Sofia in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League when, despite an admirable display, the visitors found themselves on the receiving end of a harsh first-leg scoreline.
Just five days on from seeing off HNK Cibalia in a sweltering Croatia, Cliftonville – sporting a hastily-assembled all-black strip – stepped out at the rain-soaked Vasil Levski Stadium, where Pavel Vidanov’s ninth minute goal threatened to open another set of floodgates entirely.
The Reds battled gamely, however, and, thanks in no small part to an outrageous double goal-line clearance from Ciaran Donaghy, were well in the contest until The Armymen went 2-0 up through Marcos Marquinhos on 73 minutes before Rumen Trifonov’s delicate chip extended the hosts’ advantage.
Cliftonville’s disappointment was confounded in the closing stages when Stephen Garrett – making just his third appearance for the Club since a summer switch from Newry City – was sent off after receiving a second yellow card from Lithuanian referee Gediminas Mazeika.
Cliftonville: Connolly, R Scannell, B Holland, Donaghy, McMullan, C Scannell, Garrett, Hutton, Caldwell, Boyce, Catney. Subs: McKane, O’Hara, Smyth, O’Connor (for C Scannell), Patterson.