Such was the severity of the illness that the goalkeeper Paul Mathers was forced to miss the game, while several other players soldiered on in front of a 12,000-strong crowd. But the Belfast side's heroics were rewarded with a result which gives them a fighting chance to win the tie at Windsor Park in two weeks, with only Levani Kebadze's 24th-minute goal separating the teams.
The former Blackburn manager Roy Hodgson got off to a winning European start as the new coach of Swiss club Grasshoppers, after his side beat the Irish part-timers Bray Wanderers 4-0 in the first leg in Zurich. Two goals apiece from veteran Swiss international striker Stephane Chapuisat and the substitute Patrick Isabella look to have made the second leg a formality.
Two late goals by Par Karlsson gave IFK Gothenburg a 3-0 first-leg victory over Cork City at the Ullevi Stadium in Sweden. Patrik Andersson opened the scoring in the 36th minute but Cork were looking good to take just a one-goal deficit back home until Karlsson struck in the 74th and 87th minutes.
Portadown surrendered 3-0 to Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia at Shamrock Park. Vladimir Mantchev opened the scoring after only two minutes and the hosts were struggling after Vinny Arkins' penalty was saved. Sasha Kovacevic's goal after 77 minutes capped a brilliant solo run and Assen Boukarev's drive with five minutes left all but killed the tie.
Inter CableTel trail 2-0 after their first leg against NK Gorica of Slovenia. The Cardiff club had threatened to pull off a surprise result until Zeljko Nitrakovic scored from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute and Anton Zlogar added a second with eight minutes remaining.
Henrik Larsson scored twice as Celtic battered Welsh part-timers Cwmbran Town 6-0 at Ninian Park. Nearly 9,000 fans saw former West Ham star Eyal Berkovic score his first goal for the Glasgow giants, in only the second minute, with a stunning volley. Olivier Tebily, Mark Viduka and Harald Brattbakk completed the scoring.
Porhallur Orn Hinriksson's powerful header three minutes from time gave Icelandic part-timers KR Reykjavik a slim 1-0 win over Kilmarnock.
Substitute Nathan Lowndes' dramatic late goal against VPS Vaasa gave St Johnstone a 1-1 draw to take back to Scotland after the first leg in Finland.