Nomads stun HJK Helsinki with stunning Europa League first leg win.
Nomads were given little chance of getting a result in Bangor on Thursday night as they played host to Finnish high flyers HJK Helsinki in the UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round first leg.
Nathan Woolfe and his Connah’s Quay Nomads’ teammates didn’t read the script on the way to the Bangor University Stadium, Nomads home for the night.
This was supposed to be a gentle trot out for Champions League regulars HJK against what the Finnish media had labelled a ‘Welsh pub side.’
For The Nomads’ the game was reward for finishing second in the Welsh Premier League guaranteeing them entry into Europe, but the odds of success were stacked against them according to bookies.
Domestically, HJK lead Finland’s Veikkausliga by 10 points with one loss in 16 games and scored 18 goals in their last five wins.
The Nomads came into the game off the back of strong performances against Northern Ireland’s Ballymena and Scotland’s St Johnstone.
With 30 minutes played The Nomads’ organisation at the back was paying dividends, as they had been dealing with onslaughts of attack from HJK well.
Against the run of play, Nomads took the lead in the 38th minute.
A free kick was awarded to The Nomads around 35 yards from goal, which Pearson played short to Nathan Woolfe, who sent a whipped cross into the box which evaded all to bound past HJK keeper Uusitalo and into the net off the post.[/vc_column_text][mp_carousel_1 carousel_images=”53344,53345,53346,53347,53348,53349,53350″][vc_column_text]This shock lead saw The Nomads grow in confidence, and finish the first half strongly. They returned in buoyant fashion in the second half, seeing more of the ball in the first 10 minutes after the restart.
Callum Morris forced Uusitalo into a low save, before a Jay Owen header nearly crept into the bottom left corner if not for a similar stop from the HJK goalkeeper.
Eager to equalise, HJK soon hit back and created a number of dangerous chances in The Nomads’ area. The likes of Pelvas and Obilor sent powerful efforts into the area, but they stayed out thanks to a tireless Nomads defence.
The Nomads made a change with Declan Poole replaced by Ryan Wignall, whose pace and strength was vital for The Nomads as HJK threw everything at the home side in search of a result.
The game entered its final stage and as the crowd began to sense a famous victory, HJK came ever closer to breaking The Nomads down. HJK were awarded four set pieces in The Nomads’ half during the final minutes of the game, but all chances were missed and The Nomads edged closer to the historic result.
After four minutes of injury time, full time was confirmed. Despite the result being a first leg victory, it stands as one of the best results in Welsh football’s illustrious history as The Nomads had beaten a full time, professional, vastly experienced European side.
The Nomads now move onto a challenging second leg at HJK Helsinki’s Telia 5G Arena on Thursday 6 July for a 7:00pm kick off.
Additional report via the-nomads.co.uk/Will Catterall
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