Christy Manzinga magic as Linfield fire home four in Europa Conference League
Striker Christy Manzinga hit a first-half stunner to send Linfield to the brink of a lucrative Europa Conference League third-round slot.
It was another one of those famous European nights that had the Blues’ 1,000 fans jumping with joy inside Windsor Park.
They may have exited the Champions League, when beaten by Lithuanian side Zilgiris Vilnius last week, but David Healy’s boys were in no mood to feel sorry for themselves with a 4-0 success over Borac Banja Luka.
Michael Newberry got the Danske Bank Premiership champions off to the best possible start, scoring after only two minutes before French striker Manzinga lit up the international arena with a wonder strike.
Skipper Jamie Mulgrew hit a third with 15 minutes remaining, with defender Jimmy Callacher heading home in injury-time.
The Irish League title-holders are now in with a great chance of adding to their €1m in financial gains, racked in from their European venture.
There was a minute’s silence before the game as a tribute to former Linfield manager Tommy Leishman, who passed away earlier this week after a long battle with illness.
Healy made only one change to the side that lost to Zalgiris last week, drafting in midfielder Cameron Palmer in place of Niall Quinn.
What a start there was to the game with Borac midfielder Amar Begic booked after merely 15 seconds after chopping down Palmer.
And the home fans were on their feet after only two minutes off Newberry’s stunning opening goal.
Tria Hume drilled in a brilliant cross from the right which was met by Manzinga, whose bullet header was somehow kept out by Bojan Pavlovic. Newberry’s initial shot cannoned off defender Dino Coric, but when the ball fell kindly for the big defender his finish was clinical.
The visitor were almost caught out again with Manzinga gobbling up Palmer’s brilliant pass only for Pavlovic to rush off his line to head clear.
It was all Linfield in the first quarter and they came close to doubling their lead when Kirk Millar sent Matty Clarke rampaging down the left and his cross was destined for the boot of Manzinga, but Pavlovic got there first.
Callacher then met a Millar free-kick – after Begic had flattened Hume – only to see his header deflected over the top.
It got even better for the Blues on 25 minutes with that Manzinga belter.
The big Frenchman was sent through the middle by a sublime pass from Stephen Fallon. After cutting past Dorde Milojevic, he hit the most audacious of shots with his left foot and the ball rocketed into the top corner.
Following his team’s woeful first-half showing, Borac boss Marko Maksimovic made two alterations during the break, introducing Donald Molls Ntchamda and Aleksandar Subic.
And the Bosnians tested Chris Johns for the first time on 57 minutes but the big goalkeeper had little difficulty in dealing with Stojan Vranjes’ effort from distance.
Minutes later Vranjes sent a raking header over the crossbar following a clever corner-kick routine from Dejan Meleg.
But the Blues put the topping on a great night’s work when Clarke crossed for Mulgrew, who cleverly guided his shot into the bottom corner.
Healy’s boys finished the game in some style with Callacher joining his forwards to thunder home a Millar corner-kick in injury-time.
LINFIELD: Johns, Hume, Newberry, Callacher (Roscie, 93), M.Clarke, Mulgrew, Shields, Millar, Palmer, Fallon (Quinn, 82), Manzinga (A.Clarke, 82).
Subs (not used): Walsh, Williamson, Nasseri, Pepper, Salam.
BORAC: Pavlovic, Coric, Milojevic (Subic, 46), Jovanovic, Cosic, Vojnovic (Kulasin, 68), Begic (Ntchamda, 46), Zakaric, Vranjes, Meleg (Vusurovic, 79), Moraitis (Zivkovic, 79).
Subs (not used): Cetkovic, Lakic, Kujundzic, Dujakovic, Cavic.
REFEREE: Kaarlo Hamalainen (FIN).
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.
But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.