Watch: Incredible Michal Kucharczyk strike from 30 yards handed Cork City a cruel Champions League defeat
Cork City 0 Legia Warsaw 1
They have waited a long time to get back into the Champions League and Cork City now face a battle to have an extended stay in the competition having been undone by a single goal 11 minutes from time in the home leg of their clash with Legia Warsaw.
Legia, backed by a strong support in a crowd of 5,795, came to Ireland with a high opinion of themselves and a status inflated by Cork manager John Caulfield's claim that his side were 100/1 outsiders in the tie. Yet despite the presence of five senior internationals in their starting XI and another two sprung from the bench, Legia looked like anything but world-beaters, but did enough to win on the night and make themselves clear favourites for a place in the second qualifying round.
Neither side looked like winning, until Polish international Michal Kucharczyk struck on 79 minutes, and the Leesiders know that they have a mammoth task head of them in Warsaw next week in the second leg.
The hard part to take for Cork fans is that Kucharczyk's late strike was just about their only attempt on target but fine lines decide games like this and Legia, who have got through the first-round hurdle in Europe for the last 12 successive campaigns, can usually cope with the efforts, however brave, from a side like Cork City.
Caulfield expected his side to have little of the possession on the night and needed them to soak up what came their way, hoping that they could successfully snatch at something at the other end.
Outside of the Intertoto Cup, Polish clubs had scored at least once on all of their previous visits to Ireland over the previous 40 years so the main aim, clearly, for Cork was to keep a clean sheet and head for next Tuesday's second leg with something to play for.
For all their possession Legia, playing in their first game of the new season, lacked sharpness and took until the 74th minute to really trouble the home side's Scottish keeper Peter Cherrie.
Teenage attacker Sebastian Szymanski, seen as one of the bright hopes for Polish football, had two good chances in the space of two minutes midway through the first half but his free kick, and then a shot from the edge of the box, were off target.
Cork were also wasteful when more composure could have seen them score, as slack defending from Legia left Barry McNamee in a dangerous position on 13 minutes but the Donegal native panicked in possession and his effort was deflected out for a corner.
In the 31st minute McNamee was the provider as his free kick into the box forced defender Mateusz Wieteska to clear for a corner.
Midfielder Marko Vesovic, a key figure at international level for Montenegro for whom he was practically an ever-present in the World Cup qualifiers, was a classy presence in the middle of the park but little went right in the final third for the visitors.
At the other end the hosts also posed occasional threats, substitute Graham Cummins perhaps shocked to find himself in a one-on-one situation with keeper Adam Malarz for Cummins' first touch, and his effort was weak and easily saved by the Polish keeper.
But with 11 minutes left, Legia pounced. Punished with a free kick for Garry Buckley's tackle on Kasper Hamalainen, Krzysztof Maczynski laid the ball off to fellow Poland cap Kucharczyk and his finish was sublime and beyond Cherrie's grasp, as even the input of sub Kieran Sadlier in the closing stages could not get Cork the goal they needed.
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