Derry City heading to Kazakhstan as Michael Duffy clinches historic victory over KuPS in Finland

KuPS 3Derry City 3(Derry win 5-4 on aggregate)
Derry City players Sadou Diallo, Michael Duffy and Brandon Kavanagh celebrate Derry City’s win over KuPs FC. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2330GS -Derry City players Sadou Diallo, Michael Duffy and Brandon Kavanagh celebrate Derry City’s win over KuPs FC. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2330GS -
Derry City players Sadou Diallo, Michael Duffy and Brandon Kavanagh celebrate Derry City’s win over KuPs FC. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2330GS -

MICHAEL Duffy headed Derry City into a third round in European competition for the first time in 17 years after a memorable victory over Finland's KuPS at the Väre Areena in Kupio.

On his 36th European appearance the winger netted the decisive goal as Ruaidhri Higgins' side advanced to the Europa Conference League third qualifying round where they'll travel to Kazakhstan to take on Tobol who dispatched of Swiss giants FC Basel.

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Derry got off to a dream start as Cian Kavanagh, hero in the first leg tie, stooped to head the visitors into a 13th minute lead against a team ranked 222 places above them in Uefa's coefficients.

A headed finish from Finnish international Tuominen 10 minutes later and a deflected Saku Savolainen effort on the stroke of half-time turned the game on its head and brought KuPS level on aggregate.

However, City twice came from behind in the tie as super sub Sadou Diallo and Duffy netted either side of a lovely team move finished by Savolainen.

Duffy's powerful 69th minute header proved the difference as Derry clinched a remarkable 5-4 aggregate victory which banked another 300,000 euro for the Brandywell outfit, taking the European pot to a staggering E850,000 so far!

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Jamie McGonigle was the glaring omission from the City squad as the striker didn't travel due to family commitments. The Dungiven man was replaced in the starting line-up by matchwinner at Brandywell in the first leg, Cian Kavanagh who led a three-pronged attack with Michael Duffy and Paul McMullan either side.

Scottish winger McMullan was the only other change from the first leg as he replaced Brandon Kavanagh who dropped to the bench.

It was a much changed KuPS side from the team which started on Foyleside with manager Jani Honkavaara making five changes. Kenyan internationals, Collins Sinchenje, Cliton Antwi (Ghana) and Ibrahim Cisse (Ivory Coast), who all missed the first leg due to visa issues were named in the starting line-up.

Scorer from the penalty spot in the 2-1 defeat at Brandywell, Axel Vidjeskog dropped to the bench with midfielder Anton Popovitch returning after injury. Arttu Heinonen, who ho scored twice in KuPs league win over KTP on Sunday which took them back on top of the Veikkausliiga came in to replace Finnish international Urho Nissilä who left the club this week following the expiration of his contract.

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Trailing by the narrowest of margins from that first leg, KuPS had a couple of sighters in the opening 12 minutes with Ghanaian Antwi flashing a 30 yard free-kick harmlessly wide of Maher's goal.

Ben Doherty's misplaced pass was intercepted and played across the Derry penalty area to Antwi moments later but his low strike went across the face of goal and wide of the mark.Derry hit KuPS on the counter as Dummigan latched onto the ball in the middle of the park, found the run of McMullan on the right and the Scotsman's clipped cross towards the back post was met by the unmarked Kavanagh who stooped to head into the net.

It was a stunning start for the visitors who opened up a two goal cushion after just 13 minutes and both Doherty and Michael Duffy tried their luck from distance as Derry looked comfortable.

That was until the 24th minute when Popovich's inswinging corner kick was met by the back of Tuominen's head inside the six yards box as the Finnish international rose above both Boyce and Maher to head home the equaliser.

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Derry skipper Patrick McEleney - playing his 47th European fixture - went down clutching his Achilles on the half hour mark and was replaced by Sadou Diallo - a bitter blow for the Foylesiders!

Just before the interval KuPS took the lead after a long ball was nodded down by Yengi and Tuominen played it into the path of Savolainen with a deft touch.

Savolainen took a touch before his strike deflected off Boyce, wrong-footed Maher and found the back of the net to level the tie on aggregate.Derry were dealt another blow when the influential Dummigan was forced off injured on 53 minutes and replaced by Adam O'Reilly.

Two minutes later Derry leveled the match on the night through Diallo to put the League of Ireland men back in the driving seat.Duffy's pass on the edge of the penalty area was dummied by Patching and Diallo's left footed strike was blocked by a defender. It rebounded back to Diallo who hit it with his right foot and it sailed past Johannes Kreidl who was rooted to the spot.

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KuPS were back in front just three minutes later after a lovely team move which sent Savolainen through one-on-one with Maher and he slotted past the Derry keeper with a composed finish.It was an extraordinary tie and Derry levelled the match for a second time when Diallo swung in an inviting cross and Duffy ran between two defenders and powered home his header into the corner on 69 minutes.

Five additional minutes at the end but KuPS had run out of ideas and Derry held firm to advance to the third round in Europe for just the second time in the club's history.

Derry City: Maher; Boyce, Connolly, McJannet, Doherty; Dummigan (O'Reilly 53), P McEleney (Diallo 30), Patching; Duffy, C. Kavanagh (Mullen 79), McMullan (S. McEleney 79); Subs Not Used: Ryan, Lemoignan, Coll, B. Kavanagh, McEneff.

KuPS: Kreidl; Saarinen, Cisse, Sichenje, Antwi; Oksanen (Dahlstrom 86), Popovitch (Bispo 70); Tuominen (Lampinen 86), Heinonen, Savolainen (Jervis 70); Yengi; Subs Not Used: Riihimaki, Pitkanen, T. Miettinen, S. Miettinen, Vidjeskog, Hämäläinen.

Referee: Mr Dario Bel (Croatia).