Sometimes in the world of of big time, big money professional soccer, the little things can get lost in the shuffle. Significant, albeit cosmetically minor, triumphs that remind players and fans alike of why they invest so much time and emotion in the beautiful game.
Northern Ireland's Glentoran enjoyed one of those triumphs in the first round of Europa League qualifying when they shocked Macedonian side FK Renova 3-2 on penalties. Trailing 2-1 after the opening leg in Tetovo, the Northern Irish part-timers managed a 2-1 victory in Belfast, their first European victory on home soil in 26 years, before besting their professional counterparts in the shootout.
Elsewhere, Kazakh sides FC Shakhter Karagandy and FC Irtysh Pavlodar pulled upsets over Slovenia's FC Koper and, more surprisingly, Poland's Jagiellonia Białystok. Welsh side The New Saints moved on as well, edging Northern Ireland's Cliftonville 2-1 in an all-British affair.
As for Fulham? Well, who really wants to read about Fulham on a Fulham blog? The mighty, mighty Whites dominated NSI Runavik from the start to the finish of the round, though they will undoubtedly be displeased only managing to score three goals.
The full list of the round's results as well as a brief analysis of Kristian and I's pick'em choices can be found after the jump.
Kristian's Match Up: FK Rabotnicki (MKD) v JK Trans Narva (EST)
As Kristian surmised, FK Rabotnicki had little trouble dispatching JK Trans Narava and moved after a lopsided 7-1 aggregate scoreline. Rabotnicki took control of the tie from the outset, winning the first game in Estonia 4-1, with a 3-0 result at home adding an exclamation point to their performance.
Result: 7-1 FK Rabotnicki
Kristian's Record: 20-5
Stephen's Match Up: ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar (ISL) v Saint Patrick's Athletic FC (IRL)
A little trickier than Kristian's pick. I put my faith in St. Pat's Athletic based on their form and, frankly, a dismissal of Icelandic domestic football. However, when IBV took a 1-0 result from the opening match at home, I sat up and took notice, ruefully shaking my head at the prospect of whiffing on my highlighted match.
St. Pat's though, beautiful band of mortals that they are, came through in the end, pulling off a 2-0 result at home to continue their winning ways in Europe.
Result: 2-1 Saint Patrick's Athletic FC
Stephen's Record: 20-5
Here's the rest of the round's results. Winners are bolded.
|First Qualifying Round Tie