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‘It was a perfect night for us, from the start to the finish, every player was brilliant’ – St Pat’s boss Tim Clancy

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Barry Cotter of St Patrick’s Athletic in action against Bradley De Nooijer of CSKA Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo: Sportsfile

Barry Cotter of St Patrick’s Athletic in action against Bradley De Nooijer of CSKA Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo: Sportsfile

Barry Cotter of St Patrick’s Athletic in action against Bradley De Nooijer of CSKA Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo: Sportsfile

Tim Clancy celebrated “a perfect night” for St Patrick’s Athletic last night but warned his side will need another big performance in Tallaght next Thursday if they are to finish the job and progress to the play-off round of the Europa Conference League.

Clancy acknowledged his side were underdogs coming into the third-round first-leg tie, but there was no sign of an inferiority complex as substitute Serge Atakayi’s strike on 87 minutes secured their first away win in Europe since 2009.

Playing their first third-round tie in a decade, St Pat’s limited Saša Ilić’s side to few clear chances in the 43,000-seater Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Eoin Doyle and Chris Forrester went closest for the Saints before the late winner, as they take the victory back to Tallaght Stadium for Thursday’s second leg.

They will face Brondby of Denmark or Basel of Switzerland in the play-off, and pocket €1 million, should they progress.

“It was a perfect night for us,” said Clancy after the famous win. “From the start to the finish, every player was brilliant. The game was getting stretched. CSKA were feeling pressure from their fans to go and get a winner.

“Serge has that energy and pace, we thought making that change at that moment in the game might have given us that opportunity.

“Thankfully he got on the end of a short back-pass, slotted it home and got us the win. He feels on top of the world because he’s after getting one of the best results there has been from an Irish club in Europe.

“The more games they are playing, the more belief they are getting. To come out here and stick to the game-plan in the way we did, is testament to them. CSKA are a very good team. We defended brilliantly and took the chance we got.

“Certainly, it gives us a little more belief going into next Thursday. For us to get through is going to take an effort from everyone.”

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Atakayi was also pleased, as he wrote his name into the St Pat’s history books with his first goal for the club.

“I have worked very hard since I've come here,” he said. “I’m very happy to score. Every time you play football, if you get a chance you have to take it. That’s how football is.”

St Pat’s started the game strongly as Anto Breslin found Billy King in a pocket on the edge of the box, but the Scot blazed his effort over.

Stanislav Shopov’s free-kick failed to trouble Joseph Anang before Barry Cotter got in behind the home defence and misfired his cross.

Forrester, scorer of a wonder-goal in the previous round, threaded King through on the half-hour mark, but his dangerous cross failed to find a white shirt.

Cotter denied Bradley De Nooijer on the left wing with a wonderful sliding block, before Anang saved Thibaut Vion’s follow-up after he parried Jurgen Mattheij’s driving shot.

St Pat’s best chance of the evening came five minutes after the restart, as Breslin’s free was almost knocked in by Forrester.

Doyle went through on goal on 65 minutes and cracked the crossbar. The 34-year-old may have been relieved to see the offside flag raised after the glaring miss.

In the closing stages, CSKA struggled in front of goal and were devoid of ideas.

Doyle blazed over from close range with 10 minutes left as the Saints sensed a late winner on the cards.

It came with three minutes left, Atakayi capitalising on a loose back-pass by Asen Donchev.

The 23-year-old Finn beat the goalkeeper and netted his first goal for the club, as the 100 travelling fans were sent into ecstasy.

Anang produced an excellent fingertip save to keep Jonathan Lindseth’s header out minutes later as St Pat’s held on for a famous win in Bulgaria.

“It was a very good defensive, and disciplined performance,” added Clancy.

“We had a few bookings early in the game which I thought were very soft, we seemed to be getting penalised for every contact and getting booked for very little. The opposition were not really getting booked for any tackles or pushes.

“We defended resolutely, and stuck to the game plan to frustrate them and limit them. How we dealt with crosses was excellent and still had a threat on the counter-attack. In the last couple of weeks we’ve left back-passes short, so it was good tonight we were on the other end of it."

St Patrick’s Athletic – Anang; Brockbank (Curtis 74), Grivosti, Redmond, Breslin; Cotter, O’Reilly, Forrester, Lennon, King (Atakayi 81); E Doyle.

CSKA Sofia – Busatto; De Nooijer, Mattheij, H Petrov, Donchev; Shopov, Youga (Geferson 75), Vion (Lindseth 60); Tufegdzic (Yomov 46), Nazon (Bamba 60), Garcez.

Ref – Manuel Schuettengruber (AUT).


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