Late strike denies St Pat's a famous European victory
Legia Warsaw 1 St Pat's Athletic 1 - Champions League qualifier first leg
Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30
St Patrick's Athletic left Legia Warsaw bewildered in Poland last night as the Inchicore side defied the odds both on and off the pitch to record one of their best away results in Europe.
Ahead of next week second leg at Tallaght Stadium, Christy Fagan's first-half goal looked to have Liam Buckley's side well positioned to knock out a club with infinitely greater resources – before the heartbreaking concession of a stoppage-time equaliser.
Despite the magnificence of the performance, perspective had come earlier in the day with the desperately sad news that an English-based St Pat's fan had been found dead in his Warsaw hotel room.
While Legia fielded eight full internationals, Buckley, as expected, set his side up to counter their formation directly, starting with Greg Bolger paired with Keith Fahey as a midfield defensive shield in front of the back four.
Buckley spoke in the build-up of the importance of keeping hold of the ball. And while they saw very little of it early on, they were tight on Legia when the Poles came at them and excellent on the counterattack as they troubled their opponents any time they got forward.
Having frustrated Legia, who lost Portuguese striker Orlando Sa to injury on 17 minutes, early on, St Pat's visibly grew in confidence.
Killian Brennan collected skipper Ger O'Brien's free-kick to beat his man inside and bring a terrific tip-away save from Dusan Kuciak on 38 minutes.
A minute later, Chris Forrester's cheeky flick with his back to goal from Ian Bermingham's cross was straight at the home 'keeper.
Legia continued to struggle to cause St Pat's any real problems despite their possession.
The visitors then enjoyed a purple patch in which they might have scored three times, instead having to settle for a 38th-minute lead.
First Forrester brought a back-tracking bat-away from Kuciak with a 40-yard chip following the 'keeper's poor clearance.
Fahey then put Bermingham away on the overlap and his low cross was turned in from close range by Fagan.
It might have got even better four minutes later. Having worked a one-two with Brennan, Kuciak got a strong touch to partially stop Fagan's low shot, with Inaki Astiz clearing the loose ball as Legia's fans' chanting turned to whistles.
Legia came within inches of levelling in first half stoppage-time, though, as Helio Pinto's free-kick came back off the bar as the home side protested that Brendan Clarke was only booked for taking down substitute Marek Saganowski on the edge of the area.
It got little better for much of the second half for the increasingly frustrated Legia as they again enjoyed the possession but struggled to create openings.
Their first of the half didn't come until 79 minutes. Tomasz Bryzski's low cross looked to have set up Saganowski to equalise. His shot, though, was brilliantly cleared by Clarke.
But in a final twist, Clarke was beaten in the first minute of added time. Ondrej Duda put Miroslav Radovic through on the right and he drilled a shot through the legs of the 'keeper.
Legia Warsaw: Kuciak; Broz, Rzezniczak, Astiz, Brzyski; Jodlowiec, Pinto (Vrdoljak, 66); Zyro, Radovic, Kosecki (Duda, 77); Sa (Saganowski, 17).
St Patrick's Athletic: Clarke; O'Brien, Oman, Browne, Bermingham; Fahey, Bolger; Byrne, Brennan (Chambers, 76), Forrester (Quigley, 49); Fagan (Lynch, 85).
Referee: M Avram (Romania)