So close but yet so far… A familiar scenario for England fans as they dusted off following the disappointment of losing to Italy in last month’s EURO 2020 final. However, with internationals over, attention returned almost immediately to club football and the four local sides lining up for European action.
European first timers Mons Calpe held FC Santa Coloma to a 1-1 draw in the inaugural Europa Conference League. This new competition represents the third tier of European football (Champions League being the first, Europa League second). Unfortunately, any hopes of progressing in the Conference League were dashed in the return leg, with Mons Calpe conceding three goals to the Andorran outfit in the first quarter of an hour. The tie ended 4-0 to Santa Coloma, 5-1 on aggregate.
Europa FC also kicked off with a draw, holding Lithuanian side Kauno Žalgiris 0-0 at the Victoria Stadium. However it wasn’t enough to see them through the tie, with goals either side of half time in Lithuania resulting in a comfortable 2-0 in the away leg, 2-0 on aggregate.
St Joseph’s continue adding to their European CV, having established themselves as perpetual challengers in the league. They were in Estonia for their first leg against FCI Levadia Tallinn, where the hosts took a three-goal lead before the Saints pulled one back to keep them in the tie at 3-1. They had the best possible start in the return leg, going 1-0 up and knowing one more would see them through on away goals – alas, a Levadia equaliser midway through the second half put paid to St Joseph’s adventures abroad
League winners, Lincoln, would be the only local side to have some joy in Europe – they took a 2-0 lead away at Luxembourg’s Fola Esch in their Champions League qualifier, before the hosts fought back to make it 2-2 after 90 minutes. However, the Red Imps would flex their muscles in the second leg and come away 5-0 victors in one of the most convincing wins we’ve seen by a local side against European competition. Two goals each by De Barr and Walker either side of a Kian Ronan goal underscored their superiority and set them up for a clash against a side with real European pedigree.
CFR Cluj have featured in the Champions League group stages three times in the past 15 years, and the Romanians have also had several respectable runs in the Europa League.
Lincoln took the lead on the stroke of half time in the home leg, but a five-minute double by Debeljuh in the second half would put Cluj in the driving seat. A 1-2 away win for the visitors, and the fixture balancing on a knife edge at the time of going to press!
Bavaria FCC have completed an undefeated season, winning the 2nd Division league title.
The winning team consisted of Alex Vasquez, Chris Hedley, Anthony Dafydd Morris, Gareth Gomez, Philip Vasquez and Kenneth Benedict.