New Zealanders Max Mata and Nando Pijnaker have moved a step closer to European football glory after their Sligo Rovers side upset Scottish club Motherwell in their Europa Conference League tie.
Sligo beat Motherwell 1-0 at Fir Park to take the initiative in the two-legged qualifying round tie, with the second leg to be played in Ireland on Friday July 29 (NZT).
All Whites striker Mata came on in the 77th minute as a substitute and had two half-chances which he failed to put away.
Fellow All White, defender Pijnaker, was an unused substitute, having lost his starting place in the side after his red card in an earlier Europa Conference League game against Welsh side Bala Town.
If Sligo complete their win against Motherwell, they’ll face either Czech side Sparta Prague or Norway’s Viking in the next round.
Those sides played out a scoreless draw in their first leg.
Sligo Rovers manager John Russell was ecstatic about his side’s win in Scotland.
He told the BBC: “It’s a huge result, one of the biggest in Sligo’s history. It’s only the club’s fifth win in Europe, it was a deserving win too, it wasn’t snatch and grab.
“They (Motherwell) probably did underestimate us a slight bit but we had to play to our potential and I thought we were really good in the transitions, causing them problems.
“It’ll be extremely hard to get through. Motherwell are a top side and they’ll analyse us now and pick holes in our game. We’re only at half-time.”
Main photo: Max Mata (centre) and the Rovers bench celebrate Aidan Keena’s goal.