Tuesday 21 November 2017

Agony for Saints as smarter Skonto achieve mission

St Patrick's Ath 0 Skonto Riga 2 (Skonto win 4-1 on aggregate)

Christy Fagan of St Patrick's Athletic in action against Skonto's Vladislavs Sorokins
Christy Fagan of St Patrick's Athletic in action against Skonto's Vladislavs Sorokins
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There was no shortage of desire and a genuine sense of anger but a loss of composure in key areas cost St Patrick's Athletic as they exited the Europa League.

Liam Buckley's charges miss out on a €210,000 windfall despite looking like a better side than Skonto Riga for large parts of this two legged encounter.

The mystifying awarding of a second-half penalty sealed their fate here, but they were already chasing a two-goal deficit at that point.

Polish referee Tomasz Musial won't be welcome back in Inchicore, yet the Saints will also have to look in the mirror too.

After squandering a promising position seven days ago, they were unable to break down the visitors when it really mattered and got caught up in the frustration at their cynical tactics and the officiating which wound up the Richmond Park patrons.

The Saints kicked off needing one goal to progress, but their task had stiffened considerably by the interval courtesy of a needless 37th-minute concession.

They had actually started reasonably well against the Latvians, who had come from behind in the first leg to travel with a 2-1 advantage.

With Chris Forrester and Killian Brennan prominent in the centre of the park, the Dubliners enjoyed good spells of possession and both midfielders came close to putting their side in front.


Forrester wriggled free amid a maze of bodies in the penalty area and managed to beat keeper Andrejs Pavlovs with his second attempt, but defender Renars Rode was on hand with an excellent diving header to avert the danger.

Brennan was denied by a fingertip save from Pavlovs after the Drogheda native connected with a trademark free-kick from distance.

Overall, though, the quality of Saints' play in the final third didn't really match the build-up. Lone striker Christy Fagan was well marshalled and below par when he found space.

And, as the half progressed, they lost focus as the physical Latvian outfit resorted to petty fouls to halt their momentum. Colombian midfielder Ivan Murillo appeared intent on kicking Forrester at every opportunity.

Still, while their approach was less than endearing, Skonto also showed glimpses of quality and their breakthrough goal certainly didn't come from their first chance.

Nevertheless, they were aided by poor concentration as a right-wing cross from Edgars Jermolajevs was dispatched by a far-post header from left-back Vladislavs Sorokins, who had ghosted forward from his station to slip in behind Ger O'Brien.

It meant that the Saints simply had to go for the jugular after the restart and the intensity and aggravation levels were raised a notch as a consequence, with the under-fire Musial spraying around the yellow cards with abandon.

Both Forrester and Brennan went into the book.

The antipathy between the protagonists was illustrated by the Saints' refusal to kick the ball out of play as a stricken Latvian writhed in agony; the visitors' attempts to slow the game ended any hopes of a lasting friendship.

They got their insurance goal on the hour mark in controversial circumstances as Musial pointed to the spot after Lee Desmond raised his hand in a 50-50 challenge with Vladislavs Gutkovskis. Arturks Karasausks calmly dispatched the penalty, meaning that the Saints required four goals to advance. It never looked like happening.

St Patrick's Athletic - Clarke, O'Brien, Desmond, Browne, Bermingham; Bolger, Brennan, Forrester; Byrne, Fagan (McGrath 65), Greene (Langley 65)

Skonto Riga - Pavlovs, Timofejevs, Sminorvs, Rode, Sorokins; Murillo (Isajevs 76), Kozlovs; Jermolajevs, Kovalovs, Gutkovskis (Visnakovs 64); Karasausks

Ref - T Musial (Poland)

Irish Independent

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