O'Brien and Byrne heroics leave gritty Saints in Euro driving seat
Zalgiris 2 St Patrick's Ath 2
Sublimely taken goals from Conan Byrne and Ger O'Brien provided St Patrick's Athletic with another thrilling away day in Europe as they twice came from behind to stun Zalgiris.
Liam Buckley's side were never overawed by the Lithuanian league leaders despite giving away an early goal. Byrne deservedly levelled matters early in the second half in St Pat's best spell of the game.
Zalgiris responded with Luka Peric putting them back in front on 70 minutes but a brilliant second equaliser from right-back Ger O'Brien, who turned 29 on Tuesday, on 83 minutes gave St Patrick's a fully merited draw.
In a dramatic finale, the floodlights went out deep in stoppage time, but the Slovenian referee blew it up seconds later.
St Patrick's settled well on the all-weather surface and had the first real sniff on four minutes, with Zalgiris skipper Andrius Skerla having to make a timely tackle in the box to take the ball off Christy Fagan's toe after good approach play from Chris Forrester, John Russell and Ian Bermingham.
Zalgiris looked to have targeted Killian Brennan, with Arturas Zulpa fouling the St Patrick's schemer three times early on before finally being booked.
Brendan Clarke was the first 'keeper in action, comfortably thwarting a Zalgiris attack on 11 minutes when Mantas Kuklys worked a one-two with Pavel Komolov to open up St Patrick's.
The impressive Komolov then punished poor defending to give Zalgiris a 22nd-minute lead. St Patrick's switched off from Vaitotas Silenas's quick throw on the left which put Kamil Bilinski free to pick out Komolov in the box.
The midfielder was given too much time and space to take a couple of touches before blasting to the roof of the net, with the help of a slight deflection off Kenny Browne.
St Pat's soon responded and should have been level on 33 minutes. Fagan allowed John Russell's diagonal ball to run through for the unmarked Byrne coming in off the right flank. Byrne might have done a bit better then driving his shot hard and low at 'keeper Armantas Vitkauskas, who put the ball out for a corner off his knee.
Pat's skipper Conor Kenna appealed in vain for a penalty when he looked to have been pulled down by Skerla. Enjoying a good deal of the ball in the early exchanges of the second half, it came as no surprise when Pat's levelled on 55 minutes.
Kenna won a header which Greg Bolger controlled to play a sublime ball through for the run of Byrne. Byrne lobbed Vitkauskas, who'd raced off his line.
Unsettled, Zalgiris almost conceded a second six minutes later when Bolger forced a save at full stretch from Vitkauskas from 25 yards. But Zalgiris found a way back to regain the lead with 20 minutes to go.
Clarke made a fine one-handed save from Andro Svrljuga's header from a Mantas Kuklys cross but Luka Peric was lurking to side foot home the loose ball. However, St Pat's hit back seven minutes from full-time when substitute Shane McFaul laid the ball off for the run of O'Brien, who found the top corner with a rising shot on the run.
Zalgiris – Vitkauskas; Vaitkunas, Skerla, Peric, Silenas; Zulpa (Janusauskas, 62); Svrljuga, Kuklys, Komolov (Gerc, 83), Radavicius (Velicka, 60); Bilinski.
St Patrick's Athletic – Clarke; O'Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Russell, Bolger, Brennan (McFaul, 85); Byrne, Fagan (Hughes, 88), Forrester.
Ref – M Zganec (Slovenia).