Still all to play for at Turner's Cross after Cork City are narrowly beaten away to Genk
Genk 1 Cork City 0
Published 28/07/2016 | 21:06
Cork City will feel they still have a part to play in the Europa League this season after they came away from Belgium with a defeat by the narrowest of margins.
Genk showed their class and also demonstrated why they have one of the best home records in Europe - just one home defeat now in their last 18 home matches in UEFA competition - with a 1-0 win, the victory secured with a first-half goal from teenage prodigy Leon Bailey, a Jamaican native who is being courted by Belgium at international level and has previously been linked with Chelsea.
Getting an away goal was beyond Cork but the fact that they restricted Genk to one goal means the tie is still alive for the second leg in Turner's Cross next week.
The fear is that Genk, only back in pre-season, can play at a higher level in their away leg and the Belgian outfit, who had five senior internationals in their starting XI, are a classy outfit, but Cork will draw comfort from their own display and the fact that they didn't buckle and concede more goals.
City had some very good spells of possession, especially in the second half, and while Genk - a club with an annual budget of €20million which dwarfs that of the League of Ireland side - will expect to secure progress towards their goal of group stage qualification, they also cannot afford to take the second leg for granted.
Bailey, 18, showed shy he is one of the most talked-about young players in this part of the world when he fired Genk in front on 30 minutes, profiting from a mix-up between Sean Maguire and Michael McSweeney.
But despite their possession, Genk didn't punish City No. 1 Mark McNulty as much as they'd have liked and the home keeper had to be alert, Cork looking like a threat in the second half as Alan Bennett, Sean Maguire and Kevin O'Connor all had chances.
McNulty was needed late on, saving an almost certain goal from Ally Samatta on 86 minutes while Kenny Browne cleared in the box in injury time but Genk struggled to find that second goal, so City are still in the tie ahead of the return leg on Thursday.