FIVE memorable European nights held at Rhyl’s Belle Vue
With the Champions League and Europa League draws having taken place this week, Welsh Cup winners Bala Town have chose Belle Vue to host FC Vaduz,
There have been many memorable European nights at what is now is a second tier stadium, but the Rhyl locals have been treated to a fair share of European games over the years, some including their team and others of other representatives in Welsh football.
We trawl through the archives and pick out the top 5 European Ties played at the home of Rhyl FC.
5. Prestatyn Town 0-3 HNK Rijeka
(Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round 2013/14 2nd leg)
Prestatyn Town’s European swansong is the game which starts our top five, which may surprise some readers. Prestatyn came into the 2nd leg of this Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round tie already down and out after a 5-0 away defeat in Croatia.
The performance from the Seasiders was a spirited one, attempting to play attractive football against a side who had outclassed them the week earlier. They held out until a defensive mistake lead to the opening goal after 35 minutes.
Gibson’s men weren’t deterred but the Croatians were on fire as they showcased their passion for the club with the away end draped in flags, they scored twice more to run out 3-0 winners on the night.
4. Connah’s Quay Nomads 0-0 Stabæk
(Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 2016/17 1st leg)
Connah’s Quay’s first ever European fixture comes in at number four on our list. The Nomads looked to set a tone for the tie against an impressive Stabæk side.
Andy Morrison’s side, boosted by a late appearance from Les Davies, (who started on the bench) put up a positive attacking performance as they looked to break down a strong defence from the Norwegian side. Michael Wilde thought he’d given the Nomads a dream start after five minutes as his headed goal was disallowed for offside. The opening set the tone for a very open game in which both sides created chances but the deadlock was never broken.
Connah’s Quay went on to win 1-0 in Norway and qualified for the 2nd Round before losing to Vojvodina of Serbia.
3. Bala Town FC 1-0 Levadia Tallinn
(Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 2013/14 1st leg)
Continuing the theme of “First European ties”, Bala Town’s dream Europa League debut comes in at 3 as they faced Levadia Tallinn of Estonia in front of nearly 1300 fans.
Bala had qualified for the competition after finishing winning the play-offs after a 7th place finish in the Welsh Premier League, and were given the dream start in Europe after Ian Sheridan’s 3rd minute strike sent everyone into dreamland. Colin Caton would’ve been forgiven for parking the bus for the next 87 minutes, but the Lakesiders pressed for a second goal, while facing heavy pressure at times from the Maltese side. Ultimately they held on and took a 1-0 lead to Estonia.
Sadly the Lakesiders lost the 2nd leg out in Tallinn, 3-1, crashing out 3-2 on aggregate.
2. Bala Town 2-1 Differdange 03
(Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 2015/16 2nd leg)
Bala Town feature again at two in this top five list, and could easily make a case for the number one spot with a dramatic 2nd leg victory over Differdange 03 of Luxembourg.
The Lakesiders came into the 2nd leg facing the task of overturning a 3-1 deficit and started the game looking the most likely to make inroads into pulling off a historic comeback. A first half of chances for Bala ended goalless, but it took four second half minutes for Bala to break the deadlock through Conall Murtagh.
The Lakesiders carried on turning the screw and looked to be heading through to face Trabzonspor of Turkey when Ian Sheridan scored the decisive second goal seven minutes from time. It wasn’t to be for the home side as Omar Er Rafik fired in a heartbreaking goal in the 95th minute to send Differdange through 4-3 on aggregate.
1. Rhyl 2-1 FK Atlantas
(UEFA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 2005/06 1st leg)
A list of European matches at Belle Vue wouldn’t be complete without a match featuring Rhyl FC, who take the top spot with a history making 2-1 win over FK Atlantas of Lithuania in 2005.
The Lilywhites made their UEFA Cup debut a year on from a 7-1 aggregate humbling to Skonto Riga of Latvia in the 2004/05 Champions League campaign, and started on the front foot in front of a sellout crowd at Belle Vue. It was the home side who took the early advantage with Lee Hunt heading in after 11 minutes. The Latvian side had their own string of pressure, but a strong Lilywhite defence held on before Hunt doubled Rhyl’s advantage on 70 minutes.
Atlantas were then reduced to 10 men before the pressure of the away side finally paid off in the 77th minute. Rhyl were able to hold onto what they had and claimed their first ever European win.
Rhyl became the first club since Barry Town in 1996/97 to win a European tie as they fell to a 3-2 defeat away in Lithunaia, progressing on away goals. They then lost 3-1 on aggregate to FK Viking Stavanger of Norway.
(Featured Image: Bala Town FC)