THREE goals in the final 20 minutes of their first leg tie have given Larne a mountain to climb in their Europa Conference League tie against Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira.
The home side ran out 4-0 winners on the night, ahead of next Thursday’s second leg at Inver Park.
The Primeira Liga side capitalised on mistakes for the opening two goals – just before half-time and 20 minutes from the end – before adding gloss to the scoreline late on.
The Invermen reached this 3rd Qualifying Round courtesy of victories against Bala Town and Danish outfit AGF Aarhus.
Both sides also went into the game knowing Spurs lie in wait in the next round, following Monday’s draw.
Larne were boosted ahead of kick-off with the news that boss Tiernan Lynch, along with brother and assistant Seamus, had signed new three-year contracts with the club.
The Porto-based side looked fired up in the early stages however and they came close to opening the scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes.
Denilson, who was the spearhead of a dangerous front three, was the man who will be wondering how he didn’t break the deadlock.
Firstly, on three minutes his header from close range, was well kept out by Ferguson, who produced an instinctive stop.
Seven minutes later the striker went even closer as he planted his header from a left-wing cross into the turf allowing a grateful Ferguson to gather.
From this point, Lynch’s men got a better grip of the game, and restricted the home side to efforts outside the box.
Just as it looked like the two sides would go into the break level, disaster struck for the visitors.
As is the style they have become known for, Larne were maintain possession close to their goal with the ball passed back to goalkeeper Ferguson.
The former Linfield stopper took one touch too many, however, and the alert Denilson was quick to rob the ‘keeper and poke the ball into an unguarded goal.
After going a goal down a minute before the half-time whistle, the home side almost added to a minute after the break.
This time Denilson found space in the Larne box, but Ferguson was out quickly to deny the Brazilian striker with a smart save with his feet.
The forward wasn’t to be denied with 20 minutes left on the clock. Once again Larne paid for a mistake at the back as John Herron’s pass across the face of the Larne penalty area was intercepted by sub Helder Ferreira.
Ferreira – only on as a substitute – squared the ball to Denilson and he took a touch before finishing from 12 yards out.
Three minutes later and the home side really drove home their advantage with the best goal of the evening.
Canadian international Stephen Eustaquio picked up a corner 20 yards out and arrowed a low effort into Ferguson’s bottom right corner.
There was still time for a fourth on the stroke of 90 minutes, with Pacos breaking the offside trap as Ferreira crossed for Silva De Jesus to slot home from 10 yards out to cap a good night’s work for the home side.