A battling performance by Linfield in their Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw in Poland came up just short as the ten man Blues conceded eight minutes from time to slip to a 1-0 defeat.

Defender Mark Stafford was disappointed with the outcome of the game but still proud of the performance against a strong Legia side.

“We come off the pitch disappointed to be honest but there was a lot of pride in the performance,” said Stafford.

The Blues set out to restrict their opponents and then try and take a chance at the other end of it came and their tactics almost paid off.

“We wanted to try and frustrate them for as long as we could and then try and nick something.

“You have to understand the quality of football team you are playing against and as soon as you go to step out against a team like that they will pick you off and you will end up conceding,” said Stafford who went close to grabbing a goal for the Blues only to be denied by a stunning save by former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

“The game plan was working to a tee and we had a couple of chances including one myself. Boruc is a quality goalkeeper and he anticipated where the ball was going but I couldn’t believe that he saved it, I was that close in.”

The dismissal of Kirk Millar to a second yellow left the Blues fighting an uphill battle and Legia went on to bag the winner soon after.

“When we went down to ten men we always knew it was going to be difficult and they went on to snatch it.

“You are talking about a class outfit. One of their full backs, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Premier League clubs having been looking at while the other full back is on €400,000 a year. Their aspirations is Champions League group stages, that’s what they are targeting but in the 80th minute in a knockout game we were 0-0 with them,” he said.

However, the Blues European adventure continues in the Europa League where they will be a seeded team in the second round of qualifying. Stafford is hoping for a home draw for that game in September.

“The next round is the second qualifying round and I genuinely hope that we get a home draw. European away games are not the same this year with the Covid testing that you have to get and wearing face masks and all the rest. A home draw would be nice.”