Gypsies' European curse strikes again
BOHEMIANS 1OL LJUBLJANA 1
(Olimpija win 3-1 on aggregate)
FOR 80 minutes Bohemians had cause to believe in an impossible dream.
Pat Fenlon's hastily assembled mixture of young tyros and experienced campaigners caused more than a flutter against a technically gifted but shaky Olimpija Ljubljana side who carried a 2-0 lead into this tie after a controversial first leg.
But then the old Bohemians European jinx struck again.
Two years after Mark Rossiter's under-hit effort allowed Red Bull's Patrik Jezek to break their hearts and 11 years after Dave Morrison scored an own goal against Aberdeen, Ger O'Brien didn't spot Barry Murphy coming to claim and knocked the ball past him and into his own net.
So an own goal, a questionable penalty and a direct goal from an indirect free kick later and the Gypsies become the first Irish side to exit Europe this season despite Christy Fagan's first-half header giving them hope of progressing and picking up €90,000 in prize money in the process.
Bohs took to their task from the off with lone striker Fagan causing the visitors' big centre-halves no shortage of problems in the opening minutes as Sreten Sretenovic had to stretch to cut out a dangerous low cross.
But the Slovenians were slick in possession and Murphy's fingertip save denied Dare Vrsic his third goal in the tie. Even though it was Olimpija who looked the more technically gifted team, Bohs weren't going to allow them have the ball all night and after he won a free on the edge of the box himself, Killian Brennan's free went high.
He then tried something different from a corner, cutting the ball back to Rossiter but the left-back was under pressure as he fired over.
Murphy had to be alert to deny Anej Lovrecic from a long-range daisy-cutter, but as the half went on the Dubliners' high-pressing game was causing Ljubljana problems.
And it reaped the ultimate benefit on 34 minutes as Robert Bayly pressurised Davor Skerjanc into conceding the corner and when Aidan Price's header from Brennan's ball fell on the winger's head, he inexplicably sent the ball towards his own net.
Elvis Dzafic turned the ball onto his bar, but Fagan was on hand to send the Jodi Stand into delirium and give Bohs hope. It had the opposite effect on the Slovenians, who grew even more nervous and goalkeeper Dzafic slipped with the ball at his feet but Fagan couldn't nick it away from him.
The visitors looked composed after the break and Murphy made a few comfortable saves before Liam Burns went off with a facial injury and Ollie Cahill's introduction forced a re-jig.
Bohs had some half-chances from set-pieces as the game grew towards a crescendo, only for an innocuous Vrsic pass to turn into a nightmare for O'Brien. Bubble burst, the Slovenians started thinking about Austria Vienna and the Phibsboro club were left contemplating what good the €90,000 might have done to their coffers.
BOHEMIANS -- Murphy; Heary, Burns (Cahill 61), Price, Rossiter (Downes 81); O'Brien, O'Brien; Buckley, Bayly (Forrester 71), Brennan; Fagan.
OLIMPIJA LJUBlJANA -- Dzafic; Jovic, Sretenovic, Andelkovic, Salkic; Lovrecic, Radujko; Fink (Omladic), Vrsic, Skerjanc (Kasnik 86); Valencic (Cadikovski 74).
REF -- P Mazzoleni (Italy)