Europa League: Ballymena in charge of Runavik tie after 2-0 win

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Sizzling Sky Blues win historic European tie

Ballymena United are in control of their Europa League preliminary round tie with NSI Runavik after a 2-0 win at the Showgrounds.

Leroy Millar and Jude Winchester struck early in the second half as the Sky Blues celebrated their hosting first European tie at the venue for 15 years.

Ross Glendinning's point-blank save from Petur Knudsen denied the visitors a potentially crucial away goal.

The Faroese side will host the return leg on Thursday 4 July.

After a major overhaul in playing personnel last summer, Ballymena boss David Jeffrey now appears content with his squad, with midfielder Declan Carville the only new face among the hosts' starting 11.

Throughout the contest at a sun-kissed Showgrounds, the Sky Blues looked stronger than their opponents, who lost their first leg tie against Linfield by the same scoreline four years ago.

Sky Blues pick up where they left off

The decision to allow Ballymena to host the game was only taken by Uefa in late May following significant investment on the Showgrounds pitch.

In front of a vocal crowd at Warden Street, United enjoyed the better of a low-key first half although Glendinning had to turn Knudsen's curling effort over the bar after the keeper spilled a cross.

At the other end a smart save from Tondur Thomsen denied Millar the opener after the impressive midfielder had latched onto Winchester's pass.

Millar was not to be denied however and found the breakthrough just four minutes into the second half, wrong-footing Thomsen with a low left footed strike.

Ballymena captain Jim Ervin
Ballymena captain Jim Ervin says his side will be "fit and raring to go" against NSI Runavik

The goal lifted the tempo in Ballymena's play and their lead was soon doubled in style when Winchester collected the ball just inside the area before bending a stunning effort into the far corner.

With a tie against Swedish outfit Malmo awaiting the winners of this tie, Runavik went in search of a reply and thought they had once when Knudsen found space in the area, only for Glendinning to swat the goalbound effort away.

Millar should have added another late on but could not keep his close-range header down after Adam Lecky's pinpoint cross.

On the evidence of Thursday's encounter the Sky Blues should be confident of completing the job next week in Runavik, but will be wary that their opponents are unbeaten in nine domestic games.

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