Accies Win UEFA Youth League Thriller
Substitute Sean Slaven smashed home a dramatic 95th minute equaliser to draw the tie level at 4-4 on aggregate after 180 minutes of action before Ross Connelly saved three penalties in the shootout in front of a crowd of 2460.
The young Accies reward for defeating the Swiss champions – who also reached the last 16 of last year’s competition – is a tie against Danish champions Midtjylland next month.
Poised at 2-2 following the first leg in Basel, Andrew Winter fired the home side in front on the night in the 19th minute. The 16 year old barged his way past Marchand in the middle of the pitch before rifling a shot from 25 yards into the bottom corner of the net past the helpless Steffen.
Basel levelled proceedings in the 35th minute as Swiss youth international Tician Tuschi bundled home from two yards following a scramble in the Accies area.
Accies’ two away goals in the first leg meant they held the advantage for most of a pulsating second half before they were struck with what looked like a fatal blow in the 85th minute. Connelly’s clearance was picked up by Bislimi 40 yards from goal, he found Gaudiano down the right who showed good composure to slot past the onrushing keeper and put the Swiss side in front.
But Accies were not to be defeated.
With 94 minutes played, Lewis Smith – a lifelong Accies fan – regained the ball in his own half , cut inside and found the feet of substitute Liam Scullion. Scullion drove forward 30 yards before laying the ball into the path of Charlie Reilly, whose deft touch put Slaven through on goal. The big striker made no mistake, smashing the ball into the net to send the tie to penalties.
Slaven, Smith and Mimnaugh held their nerve to score from the spot before Connelly saved his third penalty of the night to spark scenes of jubilation on the pitch and in the stands at New Douglas Park.
Coach Jason Scotland was delighted with his side’s efforts over the two legs: ‘’I’m really proud of the boys tonight. Both in terms of their level of performance and the character they showed to get back in the game at the end.’’
‘’Basel are a top side at this level and the boys’ deserve all the credit for going toe-to-toe with them and coming out on top. Everyone knows, or everyone should know, that this club gives young players opportunities and a genuine pathway to first team football.’’
‘’Most of the boys earned professional contracts after last season and they’re certainly repaying the faith shown in them by giving the club a night like this.’’
Manager Martin Canning was equally pleased at the success of the club’s young players on the European stage: ‘’It’s a great night for everyone connected with the club and you can see what it means to the players, the directors, the staff and the fans.’’
‘’It was fitting that it was reminiscent of that day at Easter Road; a real underdog story, for us to score a late equaliser and to then go on and win on penalties.”
‘’The boys have been great coming through the Academy and since they have came into our full-time environment. We give them an opportunity and we work with the players every day to make them better. Now we want them to use this as a platform to kick on again and, ultimately, make their way into our first team.’’
Accies: Connelly, Douglas (Joseph 87), McCann (c), Hamilton, Stanger, Meikle, L Smith, Mimnaugh, Munro (Slaven 55), Reilly, Winter (Scullion 80). Subs Unused: J Smith, Wilson, Redfern, Blair.
Goals: Winter 19, Slaven 90+5.
FC Basel 1893: Steffen, Levante, Zunic, Lokaj, Isufi, Bislimi, Martinovic (Vishi 75), Marchand (Gaudiano 72), Tushi, Gubinelli, Suter. Subs Unused: Gebhardt, Casano, Durrer, Kaufmann, Sevinc, .
Goals: Tushi 35, Gaudiano 85.
Details of our 2nd Round tie with Midtjylland will be announced as soon as possible.
Photos: Dan Wild