Cliftonville kept their Champions League ambitions alive with a stirring home draw with Debrecen on Tuesday night.
The Hungarians will still be huge favourites to progress when the sides renew acquaintances in next week’s second leg but, having avoided the concession of a potentially pivotal away goal, the Reds will travel in good spirits for their return showdown against a side they will believe they can score against.
Indeed, were it not for visiting keeper Nenad Novakovic they would have secured a half-time lead last night with both Chris Curran and Joe Gormley sensationally denied within a minute of one another.
Though Ibrahima Sidibe slammed an attempt against the underside of the crossbar during the second period, Cliftonville were not without chances of their own and Novakovic repelled efforts from Curran and Ronan Scannell during frantic closing exchanges which saw both sides threaten to break the deadlock.
Debrecen’s best chance came in the depths of injury-time when, with the goal at his mercy, substitute L’imam Seydi lashed wildly over the bar.
“Most of our players spent their day at work and then came to play in a Champions League match at night – that puts it in perspective,” said home boss Tommy Breslin afterwards.
“Debrecen are full-time professionals so to play the way we did against them was very pleasing and the fact we’ve come away with a draw and a clean sheet is fantastic.
“Who knows what could happen over there - we might just need the bounce of the ball to go in our favour for us to get a goal and we could be in dream land.
“It will be very tough but that’s another week away. Right now, I’m just very proud of my team for how they’ve performed in such testing conditions.
“After seeing Linfield, Crusaders and Glenavon do so well in Europe already this summer, we didn’t want to be the odd club out,” added Bresin.
“Thankfully the players delivered a great performance.”
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, Scannell, Johnston, Flynn, Curran, Donnelly (Garrett 63), Seydak (McMullan 82), Catney, Gormley (Murray 90), Cosgrove.
Subs not used: Brown, Smyth, Winchester, Caldwell.
DEBRECEN: Novakovic, Bouadla, Lazar, Meszaros, Mate, Sidibe, Bodi (Mihelic 78), Varga, Tisza (Seydi 46), Korhut, Jovanovic (Zsidai 84).
Subs not used: Poleksic, Damahou, Morozov, Brkovic.
REFEREE: Artur Manuel Ribeiro Soares Dias (Portugal)