Peter Wilson reports from Inver Park
Larne bowed out of the Europa Conference League in style as they earned a memorable win over Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira courtesy of Mark Randall’s 83rd minute goal. The Invermen never looked likely to overturn the four goal deficit from the first leg in Porto but will go into the new Irish Premiership season full of confidence after losing just one of their six Europa Conference League games.
With 1,150 supporters packed into Inver Park, there was a fantastic atmosphere as Ronan Hale got proceedings underway.
It was the young striker who was involved in the game’s early action just three minutes in as he went down in the box after a Pacos defender slid in but the referee waved play on, much to the home fans’ frustration.
Larne put in an excellent first half display, limiting the visitors to very little of the ball and playing at a high tempo which the visitors struggled to cope with.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Larne fired a warning shot at Pacos as Mark Randall delivered a brilliant free kick in from range on the right and Cian Bolger’s header edged narrowly wide but the linesman had his flag up for offside.
The Portuguese side did not see any sight of goal until just before the break when Matchoi Djalo unleashed a good strike from 25 yards after a decent spell of possession but Rohan Ferguson was able to make the save fairly easily down to his right.
Half Time: Larne 0 Pacos de Ferreira 0 (Agg 0-4)
The away side somehow did not take the lead five minutes into the second half as Jose Silva De Jesus waltzed past Kofi Balmer and Bolger but despite being clear through on goal, his effort from 10 yards crashed off the base of the right post.
Just over 10 minutes later, Pacos thought they had taken the lead when Joao Pedro smashed home from a Luis Alves Bastos left wing free kick but the flag was up for offside.
Larne continued to press for the winner and introduced Andy Scott shortly after the hour mark to try to add more pace into their attack.
However, it was ex-Arsenal man, Mark Randall who almost found the winner on 78 minutes. Having cut in from the left, the midfielder struck a fierce drive from 26 yards out that banged off the front post.
With seven minutes left, Randall latched onto Ferguson’s punt up top and got in behind Alves Bastos on the right channel to tuck the ball away neatly into the bottom left from a tight angle.
The Invermen were not finished yet though and came close to doubling their lead in the first minute of injury time when Scott delivered a dangerous cross towards the right post but Tomas Cosgrove could not quite get on the end of it and the ball drifted behind.
Full Time: Larne 1 Pacos de Ferreira 0 (Agg 1-4)
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Watson, Herron (Lynch 85), Randall, Hale (Lusty 79), Mitchell (Scott 63), Bolger, Cosgrove, Hughes (c), Jarvis
Unused Subs: Argyrides, Robinson, McDaid
Pacos de Ferreira: A Ferreira, Baixinho (c), H Ferreira (L Da Silva De Jesus 69), Ibrahim (Pires 60), J Silva De Jesus (Delgado Baeza 69), Djalo (Nuno Santos 60), Alves Bastos, Jorge Silva, Da Silva Ramos, Joao Pedro (Da Silva Souza 69), Eustaquio
Unused Subs: Menezes De Almeida, Ferreira De Oliveira, Reis Lima, Antunes, Pereira Junior, Fernando, Luiz Carlos
Referee: Mario Zebec (Croatia)