The European dream comes to an end but the Lakesiders can hold their heads up high.
A historic night at Belle Vue saw the Lakesiders welcome AIK from Sweden knowing that they were still in the tie and still much to play for following last Thursday’s fixture.
With a 300 strong visiting support behind them, AIK began the game exactly like they started back in Stockholm, immediately pressing the Town defence. Tony Davies headed clear early on before both Stuart Jones’ worked well to clear the danger minutes later.
A Bala corner won by Connolly was swung in by Burke but dealt with easily by AIK before down the other end tested Morris but he saved comfortably.
When Connolly was fouled in the centre circle after 7 minutes of play, Smith delivered the ball into the area for Stuart Jones who headed into the arms of Carlgren.
On 8 minutes though, AIK took the lead. An initial effort was half-blocked by the Town defence before Avdic stepped up to follow the shot in at an acute angle to give the visitors the lead.
The AIK players oozed class with their fluid football but Bala were challenging them more than the reverse fixture, Mark Jones’ free header was saved by Carlgren from a corner before a combination move by Smith, Burke and Sheridan led to a shot across the face of goal being smothered by the shotstopper.
On the break, AIK were dangerous. Morris was forced to collect Strandberg’s effort after Davies partially blocked it and soon enough they made it 2-0.
The influencial Strandberg danced and weaved his way through the Town defence and chipped Morris doubling their advantage on 24 minutes.
Bala faced an uphill task but refused to let their heads go down and kept battling hard.
A frantic attack by Bala involving quite a bit of headtennis in the box came out to Smith who struck a low drive from 25 yards just wide before in a mele of players minutes later, Connolly and Stuart Jones both could’ve scored when a scrappy overhead kick scraped the woodwork.
Sheridan had a half chance hacked away prior to a corner delivered in by Bala managed to get a foot on it but the ball crept wide just before the interval.
With the away supporters still singing their hearts out, the second half began with Bala looking bright.
A quick break by Sheridan saw him arrive in space but unable to pick out a teammate followed by Stephens being deemed offside from Davies’ ball.
Strandberg again raced through the defence but Morris was strong and wonderfully tipped the ball over the crossbar.
Town were playing impressive football but their opponents’ play was at a completely never-seen-before level to the play Bala had ever come across before.
Thompson, Hayes and Crowther came on to help out Bala’s tired legs who were having to work incredibly hard to close down AIK
Good work by Crowther and Jones led to a corner which Bala were unable to create anything with as the visitors brought out even more flair with backheel tricks and quick one touch football.
A counter attack by Thompson saw him cross into an empty box then minutes later he break his man but pulled the shot wide.
AIK were awarded a freekick 25 yards out 5 minutes from time and the powerful strike was brilliantly pushed over by Morris who was once again outstanding.
Another proud evening for the Lakesiders who delivered a battling performance but were outclassed by prestigious opponents. Congratulations to the boys once again on a memorable European campaign – you have done us all proud.
To all involved with AIK, it has been a pleasure and honour to host and play you over the last two fixtures. Your supporters are a credit to you and we wish you all a safe trip home and the very best of luck for the rest of the season and for the rest of the competition. We hope that our paths cross again sometime soon – it is been an experience we will never forget. Thank you.
And finally thank you to Rhyl for their tremendous support and help – we couldn’t have done it without you.
Prima Solutions‘ Man of the Match was Nils-Eric Johansson
Match photos by Naomi Jones and Jojje Liden