Historic night for Northern Irish football as Coleraine beat Maribor in the Europa League

Thu, Aug 27 2020

In what could be the biggest result ever for Northern Irish club football, Coleraine have knocked out Slovenian giants Maribor on penalties from the Europa League after a 1-1 draw at the Ljudski VTR Stadion.

After a tense game, former Derry City winger Ben Doherty was the hero as he scored to send Bannsiders through to the second qualifying round.

The Slovenian club have been a regular face in the group stages of the Europa League and Champions League in recent seasons. In 2014 they knocked Celtic out in the play-off round of the Champions League, beating the Hoops 1-0 at Paradise, and drew 1-1 with Chelsea in the group-stages. Three years ago they faced Liverpool in the same competition, at the beginning of the Reds run to the 2018 final.

The last time Coleraine progressed in the competition, came in the 1970/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup when they beat Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock 4-3 over two legs. Their European dream came to a swift end in the next round as they were beaten 4-1 by Sparta Rotterdam.

On Thursday evening, the Bannsiders were not weighed by their history in Europe and took the lead through James McLaughin on sixty three minutes. Even after Rudi Pozeg Vancas  equalised for Maribor, they stuck to their game plan and defended to the last.

The ninety minutes turned to extra-time and the two teams could not be separated. This lead to a daunting penalty shoot out.

Just twice in the history of Northern Irish club football had a team come through a European tie from penalties. Glentoran needed spot kicks to see of Renova of Northern Macedonia in the 2011 Europa League  qualifiers. A year later Linfield beat B36 Torshavn from the Faroe Islands to progress to the second round after a 4-3 shoot out.

Coleraine converted four penalties before Maribor’s Rudi Pozeg Vancas missed. Doherty, who was apart of the Derry City team who reached the semi-finals of the 2016 FAI Cup and EA Sports Cup, coolly converted.

The Bannsiders will now travel back to Northern Ireland as one of the only teams left from the Irish League left in the competition, with Linfield waiting in the Champions Path.