In what was their first foray into European football, Cefn Druids gave a gutsy performance against a strong Finnish side, MyPa 47 at the Racecourse ground in Wrexham. The ‘home’ side grinded out a solid 0-0 draw to take into the away leg.
The Ancients, who enter the qualification round courtesy of finishing second place in the Welsh cup showed defensive quality beyond their level in this match, making the opposition work hard for every chance.
The match started with a clear indication of what was to come. MyPa controlled possession in midfield, dictating the pace of the game almost completely through midfield Anchorman, Xhevdet Gela. However, for all their possession, MyPa failed to create anything substantial in the final third, restricted only to dubious long range efforts.
For a team currently sitting fifth in the Finnish first division, having earned a draw at first place HJK Helsinki, MyPa were fairly uninspiring throughout. I’d fully expected a rugby score in this game, a fate that has happened to Welsh sides in Europe many times before. However, The Druids came into the game without fear and defended stalwartly.
Their gutsy style was seen on seventeen minutes when the home side launched a counter attack from a MyPa corner. Rees Darlington’s forward burst was fantastic and the resulting cross was met in the area by George Hughes, whose header left MyPa’s veteran ‘keeper Antti Kuismala for dead, before coming back off the upright. The follow up shot was cleared off the line.
The game plan throughout for Cefn Druids was clearly to try and contain any MyPa movement in the final third. Their attacking play was obviously limited by this style and the first half played out in this fashion; Mypa’s possession getting them nowhere and Cefn trying to snatch a goal when they hadthe ball.
Having said that, MyPa did finally carve out some clear cut chances towards the end of the first half. A corner from journeyman defender Niko Kukka was delivered into a great area, only for the resulting shot to be smartly saved by Druids number one, Chris Mullock.
The first half ended, and The Druids had given a solid performance. Whilst they had received little of the ball, most of the clear cut chances of the first fourty five minutes had gone their way. There was much to be happy about from the home sides’ perspective.
As the referee blew the whistle for the second half, normal service resumed. MyPa, at times, had a ridiculous amount of space in midfield. However, because of Cefn’s solid defensive line, they just couldn’t find a way to get into the penalty area and make their possession tell.
After being under the cosh for some time, the home side finally broke into the opposition half. Defender Mark Harris was picked out by Mike Burke and unleashed an absolute screamer at the MyPa goal, only for Antti Kuismala to show his class and acrobatically tip the ball over for a corner. This was the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock as Harris’ shot looked destined for the net.
After this Cefn’s tired legs began to show. For a part-time club the players did very well to even compete with MyPa’s fitness levels throughout the game, let alone match them for 60 minutes. The home side seemed content to absorb any opposition attacks in the later stages of the game, but did so brilliantly. Defensively, Cefn were fantastic throughout, dealing with anything their rivals could throw at them.
As the game played out, the Druids gave everything they had and more. MyPa, completely frustrated, just couldn’t create anything to spoil what was a fantastic result. Not only for Cefn Druids, but for Welsh football in general.