​Larne’s Champions League hopes hit by Riga away blow against RFS

Larne boss Tiernan Lynch in Latvia during the club's Champions League first qualifying round trip up against RFS. (Photo by Pacemaker)Larne boss Tiernan Lynch in Latvia during the club's Champions League first qualifying round trip up against RFS. (Photo by Pacemaker)
Larne boss Tiernan Lynch in Latvia during the club's Champions League first qualifying round trip up against RFS. (Photo by Pacemaker)
Larne’s Champions League campaign kicked off with away-day blues for the Inver Reds in Riga off a 3-0 reverse.

​Although Larne secured a spot in European football’s main event thanks to Premiership title glory last season, silverware success was fresh in the minds of the summer squad following last Friday’s win over Cliftonville in the domestic NIFL Charity Shield.

However, Tiernan Lynch’s Larne made the trip to Latvia aware of a tough test against a RFS side sitting top of the table by seven points and 22 games into a league season.

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Ultimately, RFS built on a first-half lead with two goals after the break inside 12 minutes to cement home control off Martins Kigurs, Daniels Balodis and Stefan Panic efforts in the first qualifying round’s first leg.

Larne’s Conor McKendry forced Fabrice Ondoa into a low save with the first shot of significance before Cian Bolger and Rohan Ferguson proved alert off early RFS pressure.

Janis Ikaunieks had the ball in the Larne net on 15 minutes but Ziga Lipuscek was ruled offside via VAR.

Lee Bonis cleared the crossbar with his header off a Levi Ives corner-kick before RFS increased the hold on play off attempts by Kigurs and Panic.

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But, moments before the half-hour mark, Ikaunieks delivered a key cross which Kigurs popped up to convert.

Baris Altintop and Ives produced key blocks either side of the interval to deny, respectively Emerson and Ismael Diomande

However, it was 2-0 on 49 minutes when Petr Mares’ set-piece delivery was flicked on by Panic and Balodis headed home.

McKendry fired just wide of the target in response but RFS moved clear by three goals when Panic steered in a superb free-kick.

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LARNE: Ferguson, Cosgrove, Bolger, Altintop (S.Graham, 63), Ives, Donnelly, Gallagher, Sloan (Thomson, 63), McKendry (Lusty, 69), Ryan (O’Neill, 87), Bonis.

Subs (not used): D.Graham, Glynn, Brown, Devlin.

RFS: Ondoa, Balodis, Prenga, Lipuscek, Markhiev (Lemajic, 46), Panic, Kigurs (Kouadio, 69), Mares, Ikaunieks (Njie, 78), Emerson (Ndjiki, 86), Diomande (Odisharia, 77).

Subs (not used): Steinbors, Vilkovs, Cucurs, Savic, Zaleiko.