Monday 22 July 2019

No Swede dreams for Saints upon Euro return

St Patrick's Athletic 0 IFK Norrkoping 2

Mikey Drennan gets his shot away despite the efforts of Rasmus Lauritsen at Richmond Park last night. Photo: Sportsfile
Mikey Drennan gets his shot away despite the efforts of Rasmus Lauritsen at Richmond Park last night. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

St Patrick's Athletic managed to keep Jordan Larsson, son of Swedish great Henrik, scoreless on his visit to Dublin last night.

But Norrkoping didn't need Larsson Jnr in the end as they enjoyed a stress-free visit to Ireland, this Europa League tie all but sewn up by the Swedes ahead of next week's second leg, with both goals coming in the second half last night.

A calm finish from Simon Thern - his dad Jonas an ex-Sweden star like Larsson Snr - and an own goal from the unfortunate Lee Desmond did the damage to Pat's, who only looked like a threat in the final stages when they were already behind.

Pre-match talk around Inchicore referenced the Saints' brilliant European win over Swedish side Elfsborg 11 years ago, as if that could inspire a repeat here, but the home side can have no complaints about this loss, they were beaten by a better side who took their two chances.

With no fewer than nine senior internationals in their starting XI, including Larsson and Thern, the visitors had a real pedigree about them.

And yet they only cut Pat's open once in a tight first half, when goalkeeper Brendan Clarke was needed to save point-blank from Larsson.

Rhys McCabe of St Patricks Athletic in action against Jordan Larsson of IFK Norrköping. Photo: Sportsfile
Rhys McCabe of St Patricks Athletic in action against Jordan Larsson of IFK Norrköping. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat's had a minor blow on 12 minutes when influential midfielder Jamie Lennon was booked, harshly so, for a foul on Norrkoping captain Alexander Fransson.

And Fransson was central to a pivotal moment in the game a minute later. He tried to deal with a pass from Mikey Drennan but made a mess of his clearance, gifting a chance to Gary Shaw, and the home crowd demanded a penalty as Shaw went down under a challenge from Fransson, though the Swiss referee waved away those appeals.

Norrkoping could have gone in front on 22 minutes with the first real attack of the game. Patience was the byword for the visitors as a sweet passing move involving three players saw Larsson burst into the box and past Ciaran Kelly, but goalkeeper Clarke put his body on the line and blocked the effort.

Threat

Michael Drennan of St Patricks Athletic reacts after a missed chance. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Drennan of St Patricks Athletic reacts after a missed chance. Photo: Sportsfile

Larsson tried his luck again on 28 minutes but was off target. Drennan was also wide of the mark with an effort on 31 minutes which didn't trouble keeper Isak Pettersson, one of the internationals in their side, with the Swedes again a threat in first-half injury time from Kasper Larsen.

Getting to the sanctuary of the half-time break without conceding was as blessing for Pat's but their state of comfort lasted just 10 more minutes as Thern put the away side in front, captain Fransson the creator and Thern with the finish past Clarke.

Larsson tried his luck on 58 minutes but was unable to find the target, a fate that befell Drennan on 71 minutes when he was sent into a good position but his shot went well wide, ending up in on the empty terraces in the Shed behind the goal.

With sub Dean Clarke injecting some pace into the home side, Pat's had their moments in the closing stages, their best chance coming on 72 minutes when captain Ian Bermingham burst forward and tried his luck from distance, a well-struck shot that forced a save from 'keeper Pettersson.

A 1-0 loss would have been hard to overturn, though not impossible, for the Saints but it truly was mission impossible when Norrkoping scored again five minutes from time. A corner by Lars Gerson was flicked on by Larsen and sadly for defender Desmond, his was the next touch as he headed the ball past Clarke.

Drennan almost nicked one back for Pat's in injury time, a fierce drive forcing a save, and a corner, from Pettersson while just before that Lennon was unlucky to miss the target with a shot that deserved something.

But the Swedes were too strong in the end, denied a third goal late on when sub Karl Holmberg fired wide with the goal at his mercy.

ST PAT'S - B Clarke; Kelly, Desmond, Toner; Madden, Lennon, Clifford (Walker 84), Coleman (McCabe 64), Bermingham; Shaw (D Clarke 64), Drennan.

NORRKOPING - Pettersson; Lauritsen, Larsen, Dagerstal; Skrabb (Binaku 85), Thorarinsson (Haksabanovic 76), Fransson, Gerson; Thern, Nyman (Holmberg 68), Larsson.

REF - L Tschudi (Switzerland).

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