Manager David Healy absent but Linfield secure clean sheet in Bosnia to march on
Linfield confirmed Europa Conference League progress into the third round with a blank in Bosnia built on Belfast’s four-goal first-leg victory over Borac Banja Luka.
In the aftermath of that Windsor Park win last week, the Banja manager resigned ahead of the away leg.
Linfield arrived in Bosnia bolstered by a 4-0 first-leg advantage - but with manager David Healy absent along with “several players and backroom staff”.
As the club reported on the official website prior to kick-off, “a number of club personnel have unfortunately been unavailable for this trip to Bosnia, due to a wide variety of injury or personal reasons that were known to the club in advance of travel”.
The club statement also highlighted how “our preparations have been professional, excellent, thorough and as close to normal as possible” and that, if successful, “we would hope to have most of tonight’s missing personnel available again for what would be a home first leg game next week”.
Linfield offered a first example of the attacking threat which proved so effective in Belfast when Matthew Clarke advanced and combined with Cameron Palmer before a Banja tackle stopped the move inside the box.
Michael Newberry produced a block to frustrate Goran Zakaric before hard work by the Blues off Clarke at the back post then Jimmy Callacher and Jamie Mulgrew helped to protect the clean sheet.
The hosts hit the post around the half-hour mark off Banja captain Stojan Vranjes from a fine half-volley hit.
Vranjes then could only head over off a corner-kick delivery as Linfied hit half-time on level terms in Bosnia but comfortable overall.
A Linfield attack on 61 minutes resulted in a Kirk Millar corner-kick pushed out by Bojan Pavlovic.
Dejan Meleg forced Johns into a stop with a drive from distance on 70 minutes.
Johns then pulled off two superb saves in quick succession as Banja pressed in search of home success.
Ante Zivkovic controlled inside the penalty area during injury-time but Newberry’s challenge kept the sides on level terms.
Linfield now host Fola Esch of Luxembourg at Windsor Park next week in the first leg.
BORAC BANJA LUKA: Pavlovic, Coric (Vusurovic, 76), Jovanovic, Cosic, Subic, Vojnovic (Kulasin, 69), Begic, Zakaric (Cavic, 75), Vranjes (Zivkovic, 75), Meleg, Moraitis (Lukic, 55).
Subs (not used): Ćetković, Lakić, Kujundžić, Uzelac, Siniša Dujaković, Milojević, Erić.
LINFIELD: Johns, M.Clarke, Callacher, Newberry, Hume, Mulgrew, Palmer, Fallon (Pepper, 79), Quinn (Nasseri, 83), Millar, Manzinga (Chadwick, 49).
Subs (not used): Walsh, Williamson, Roscoe-Byrne, Salam, A.Clarke.
REFEREE: Zaven Hovhannisyan.