Larne claimed a stunning 2-1 victory over Danish Superliga side AGF Aarhus in the first leg of their Europa Conference League Second Qualifying Round match at Inver Park.
The Invermen got off to a blistering start, Davy McDaid and Dean Jarvis scoring two goals inside the first half an hour. Late in the second half, the visitors got themselves back in the game courtesy of a Rohan Ferguson own goal.
The home side were very much underdogs as they got the tie underway, but they immediately put Aarhus on the back foot. With just three minutes gone, Fuad Sule played his 35-yard free kick from a central position out to Mark Randall on the left channel. The ex-Arsenal man whipped the ball into the area and, amidst a sea of bodies, skipper Jeff Hughes came close to converting from close range but the ball fell instead to Davy McDaid who stabbed home.
Larne continued to take the game to Aarhus, playing at a high tempo and aggressively pressing and exploiting space well to get in behind the visitors’ defence to carve out scoring opportunities.
This strategy paid off on 30 minutes when Tomas Cosgrove managed to place the ball in behind the Aarhus backline to John Herron who sprayed a ball into the middle of goal. Dean Jarvis got on the end of the Scotsman’s cross and had the simple task of nodding the ball in from six yards out.
Shortly before half-time, Randall had the chance to make it three. After being fouled on the edge of the box, he stepped up to take the resulting free kick, but it was charged down by a defender.
Half-time: Larne 2 AGF Aarhus 0 (Agg 2-0)
The away side got proceedings back underway in the second period and seemed determined to try to get back in the game.
Aarhus manager, David Nielson, made a double substitution, bringing on Yann Bisseck and Jesper Juelsgård to try to gain the Danish side a boost going forward.
However, Larne were still dangerous going forward and were pushing for a third goal.
With 20 minutes to go, Conor McKendry danced around a few defenders and laid the ball off to Herron whose shot from 16 yards took a deflection at the far post.
Only seconds later, Cian Bolger headed just inches wide from the resulting corner.
The visitors reduced the deficit to one goal six minutes from time. Sule’s crossfield pass was intercepted by Alexander Amimitzbøll on the right-hand side. Amimitzbøll delivered the ball in towards the front post, but Rohan Ferguson misjudged the flight of the ball and knocked it into his own net.
Aarhus almost drew level in the first minute of injury time. Sebastian Hausner’s throw in was met by the head of Juelsgård but Ferguson just about managed to grab the loose ball before it crossed the line.
Full-time: Larne 2 AGF Aarhus 1 (Agg 2-1)
Larne: Ferguson, Watson, Herron (Mitchell 74), Sule, Randall (McKendry 63), McDaid (Hale 68), Lynch, Bolger, Cosgrove, Hughes (c), Jarvis
Unused Subs: Argyrides, Kelly, Robinson, Scott, Lusty
AGF Aarhus: Hansen, Tingager (Bisseck 46), Poulsen, Jevtovic (Tengstedt 38), Olsen, Munksgaard (Juelsgård 46), Lund (Amimitzbøll 73), Thorsteinnson (Gersbach 48), Kurminowski, Grøenbæk, Hausner (c)
Unused Subs: Andersen, Duncan, Kristensen
Referee: Gal Leibovitz (Israel)
The second leg of Larne’s Second Qualifying Round tie is on Thursday 29 July in Denmark. Kick off at Ceres Park is 6pm (BST)