Sunday 22 October 2017

O'Flynn's extra touch of class key as Saints show true grit

IBV 2
ST PAT'S ATH 1
(Agg 2-2 aet; St Pat's win on away goals)
EUROPA LEAGUE QUALIFIER

IT WASN'T pretty but St Patrick's Athletic got the job done against IBV on the volcanic island of Vestmannaeyjar last night to march on in the Europa League.

When playing on home turf, Liam Buckley's men are renowned for their breakneck counter-attacking, but this performance was all about their lesser-hailed defensive qualities.

Stephen O'Flynn's finish in extra-time sealed their passage into the second qualifying round to meet Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia & Herzegovina after Matt Garner and Eythor Birgisson had scored for IBV.

Holding a one-goal lead from last week's first leg, the Saints were confident but cautious going into this game and the early exchanges suggested that they were right to be.

It was all about the Icelandic hosts, who dominated possession and looked the more likely to open the scoring.

On 10 minutes, Danish striker Christian Olsen threatened to get the goal that they craved when he broke through the Saints defence, but Brendan Clarke was out quick to deny him.

The assistant referee's flag was raised, although it served as a warning to Buckley's men. And so did another chance for Olsen that he fired well over a minute later.

While the back four dealt well with most things that IBV threw at them, 'keeper Clarke was called on a few times in the first half to save their blushes.

SUPERBLY

But his best was yet to come, as the Dubliner reacted superbly to stop Olsen again after the home striker shot from close range following a short free-kick from Ian Jeffs.

Going forward proved to be an issue for the Saints as they struggled to find any sort of momentum and made far too many misplaced passes. This just wasn't like Buckley's side.

Two headers from Anthony Flood, starting in place of the injured Chris Fagan, never really tested 'keeper Abel Dhaira, while James Chambers screwed a shot wide from distance.

Substitute Jake Kelly should have done better when he broke clear, but IBV finally got the goal that they deserved when Garner fired in from close range -- only after Clarke had saved twice.

With the game in extra-time, the home team thought they had secured victory when substitute Birgisson fired in on 97 minutes, when afforded too much space to shoot.

But O'Flynn quickly hit back when he slotted in Kelly's cross as Dhaira stormed off his line to try and stop the striker. And that sent them into the next round.

Irish Independent

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