CLIFTONVILLE 0 LINFIELD 3
Linfield booked their place in the semi-finals of the Tennent’s Irish Cup with an impressive 3-0 win over nine-man Cliftonville.
A double from Ross Gaynor – including a late penalty – and an Andy Waterworth goal sandwiched in between earned the spirited success at Solitude.
Cliftonville’s misery was compounded with two dismissals in injury time – goalkeeper Conor Devlin and defender Caoimhin Bonner both being sent off by referee Andrew Davey.
All the main talking points happened after a scrappy opening half that failed to spark into life.
Cliftonville almost broke the deadlock after just 35 seconds but Davy McDaid was denied by Gareth Deane when one-on-one with the Linfield goalkeeper.
The Blues responded with Andy Waterworth testing Conor Devlin with a snap shot from 10 yards after Cliftonville failed to deal with Paul Smyth’s corner.
Jimmy Callacher headed over from another Smyth corner in the 18th minute, while at the other end Jay Donnelly fired a shot from distance over the bar.
Donnelly tested Deane in the 33rd minute, the Reds winger latching onto Johnny Flynn’s angled pass before sending in a low drive that Deane palmed away at the near post.
Recently crowned WBC International Bantamweight boxing champion and Cliftonville fan Ryan Burnett paraded his belts in front of the Solitude crowd at half-time.
The game itself was calling out for its first significant blow, and Gaynor delivered it in the 56th minute.
A high ball was nodded on by Aaron Burns for Waterworth to flick into the path of Gaynor, and the winger took a touch before poking a left-foot shot past Devlin and high into the net.
Cliftonville went close to an equaliser in the 71st minute, but McDaid could only pull his shot wide of the post from 10 yards.
They were made to pay in the 76th minute when Linfield claimed their second goal.
Substitute Kirk Millar forged down the right before threading a pass into Waterworth who held off the challenge of Levi Ives before slotting a shot past Devlin an acute angle.
It was almost 3-0 in the 83rd minute but Mark Stafford’s thundering header from Gaynor’s corner crashed off the underside of the crossbar.
The win was completed in the 91st minute when Devlin brought down Smyth inside the box – Gaynor stepped up to convert the penalty.
Devlin received a yellow card for appearing to kick the ball in the direction of Linfield’s celebrating players, and then referee Davey produced a red card to the Reds keeper.
And in the 93rd minute Bonner saw red when he picked up his second booking of the game.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Ives, Bonner, Flynn, McMullan (Winchester 65), McDaid, Garrett (Murray 77), Catney, J. Donnelly, Hughes (Curran 70).
Subs not used: Knowles, M. Donnelly.
LINFIELD: Deane, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth (Bates 86), Burns (Millar 74), Ward (Kee 84), Clarke, Mulgrew, Gaynor, Smyth.
Subs not used: Fallon, Quinn.
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)