Linfield put in a trademark battling European performance in Slovakia on Thursday night.
David Kee’s superb free-kick in the first half failed to prevent a narrow 2-1 defeat to Spartak Trnava in the ViOn stadium in Zlade Moravce.
But the goal has given the Blues a fighting chance of progress in next week’s return leg at Windsor Park.
Kee’s free-kick came between goals from Erik Sabo – from the penalty spot – and Martin Mikovic to give the home side a slender first leg lead in humid conditions.
Linfield manager Warren Feeney made one change from last week’s game in the Faroes with Mark Haughey replacing Sean Ward in the centre of defence.
The Blues survived an early onslaught from the home side with Halilovic heading off the top of the crossbar after two minutes.
A few minutes later Aaron Burns almost took advantage of a mistake from goalkeeper Jakubech but he hooked his shot over the bar.
Spartak took the lead on 16 minutes after what appeared a harsh penalty decision.
Ross Glendinning was adjudged to have brought down Mikovic in the box and captain Sabo stepped up to fire the ball into the right corner.
The Blues got back into the game with a spectacular equaliser on 22 minutes.
Andy Waterworth was fouled on the edge of the box and Kee – a summer arrival from Ballinamallard United – stepped up to curl a great left foot shot into the top corner.
Ross Glendinnjng did well on 30 minutes to save a long range effort from Casado as the home side continued to press.
That pressure paid off on 35 minutes with a goal from Mikovic.
Harba did well on the right and when the Linfield defence failed to clear, Mikovic blasted home from close range.
There was drama just before half-time when Spartak defender Nikolic received a second yellow card and was dismissed after a clash with Ivan Sproule.
Linfield enjoyed much more possession against ten man Spartak in the second half.
They almost got an equaliser on 65 minutes but Ross Clarke’s goalbound effort was blocked by the home defence.
Spartak remained dangerous in attack and substitute Mikinic shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box on 77 minutes.
The Blues were unlucky not to equalise on 80 minutes when Hegarty’s header from a Ross Clarke free kick went into the net but was ruled out for offside.
Linfield continued to search for an equaliser but Spartak held on to bring a one goal advantage to Windsor Park next week.
It was a brave effort from Linfield who will believe that this Europa League tie is very much alive going into the second leg next Thursday at Windsor Park.