EUROPA LEAGUE: Sky Blues concede three in Norway on their Euro return

Kevin Braniff
Kevin Braniff

Ballymena United have it all to do as they lost 3-0 to Norwegian club Odd in Thursday night’s first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round tie.

Stefan Mladenovic slotted the ball under goalkeeper Ross Glendinning for the opener after just 34 seconds - which gave the Sky Blues a mountain to climb.

Martin Erik Broberg then fired home the follow-up after Jone Samuelsen’s 53rd-minute penalty had hit the bar.

United put up a spirited display and carved out some chances of their own but Steffen Hagen scored in added time to kill off any chance of progression to the next round.

Ballymena manager David Jeffrey handed experienced midfielder Michael Gault his competitive debut by naming him in the starting line-up, while another pre-season acquisition, Emmett Friars, was called into action to replace the injured Kyle Owens.

Two other summer signings, Steven McCullough and Andrew Burns were named on the bench.

The Irish League side were making their first foray into European club competition since losing to Odense BK in the now defunct Intertoto Cup in 2004 and prior to that they qualified four times to play in Europe during the 1980s.

The hosts got off to the best possible start with an opening goal in the first minute and Erik Broberg went close to extending the lead but shot across the face of goal.

United came into the game more and Cathair Friel headed just over from Conor McCloskey’s delivery, while substitute Johnny McMurray drilled a low effort wide.

Hagen’s late winner gave Odd a comfortable advantage to take into the second leg at Seaview on Thursday 6 July, with the winners taking on Welsh outfit Bala Town or Vaduz of Liechtenstein in the second round.