A delightful double from substitute Matthew Shevlin was enough to give County Antrim a deserved 2-0 win over Real Sociedad and book their place in the Milk Cup final tomorrow.
It was Antrim who had the first chance of the match as Liam McKenna’s curling free-kick was well gathered by Inaki Auzmendi. At the other end, Juan Uriarte let fly from 25 yards but it went sailing over the crossbar.
On 13 minutes, the County side nearly took the lead in bizarre fashion as a cross from Wesley Patterson inadvertently turned into a shot and it forced a great save from Auzmendi to keep the ball out. Moments later, a great pass by McKenna found the run of Joe Tully and he hit an effort narrowly wide.
Late on in the first-half it was the Spanish side who threatened to break the deadlock as a fantastic delivery from Jorge Losa found Antxon De La Arada and he headed just wide of the far post. Sociedad thought they had taken the lead little more than a minute later as Jokin Gabilondo’s effort was cleared off the line.
The Basque side created the first opening of the second-half as Losa was denied at close range following a great save by the Antrim ‘keeper. On 49 minutes, a great delivery from Imanoi Ezkurdia clipped the far post with the rebound being saved following a great strike by Unai Rementeria.
Little less than a minute later and Antrim took the lead as a great passage of play ended with Ryan Nimick finding Matthew Shevlin, and the striker made no mistake as he guided the ball home.The floodlights in Ballymoney powered on, and it didn’t take long for Antrim to double their lead as Lawlor found Shevlin with his back to goal. The Ballymena striker turned his marker with a magnificent touch and simply guided the ball into the back of the net.
The La Liga side looked stunned and despite having plenty of possession they couldn’t create any meaningful chances. With ten minutes to go they had the ball in the back of the net through Juan Pablo Garces but the goal was ruled off for offside.
In the dying stages of the match, County Antrim broke on a counter attack with Shevlin at the fore. The forward turned his marker and hit a rasping shot which Auzmendi saved to deny Shevlin a memorable hat-trick.
The final whistle blew and Antrim secured a spot in tomorrow’s showpiece final at the Ballymena Showgrounds against Club America. As for Sociedad, they will have to re-group as they face CSKA Moscow in the 3rd/4th spot play-off in Portstewart.
Match Report by Jonathan McNabb