O'Connor the hero for Cork as Rebels repel Swedish pressure to progress
Cork City 1 BK Häcken 0
A first-half goal from Kevin O'Connor was the catalyst for Cork City's progression to the third qualifying round of the Europa League at Turner's Cross last night.
Having drawn 1-1 in Sweden last week, a clean sheet would have been enough to secure a place in the next stage, but O'Connor's strike - after they had been second-best early on - gave them an extra cushion.
Prior to kick-off, there was boost for John Caulfield's side as stand-in captain Greg Bolger was passed fit, allowing them to start with the same 11 as which began in Gothenburg.
The start itself was delayed though as the teams emerged too early for the liking of Portuguese referee Carlos Miguel Taborda Xistra, who insisted on waiting until 7.45pm.
Once it did get going, City began fairly brightly, shouted on by a vocal home support in the opening few minutes, but once the momentum subsided they found themselves penned back as the visitors played some nice football.
Early on, the excellent Kenny Browne was forced into a couple of good interceptions but ominously, the pressure began to mount as the hosts struggled to keep the ball for any sustained period of time and in the 17th minute, John Owoeri had two chances from Nasiru Mohammed's cross, Alan Bennett blocking the first and Mark McNulty saving the second.
Mohammed was then denied by McNulty after Garry Buckley cheaply gave away possession and, then, on 20, following Owoeri's dispossession of Greg Bolger, the keeper was beaten by Mohammed Abubakari's shot but Bennett was able to clear before the ball reached the line.
A goal was beginning to look inevitable and it arrived - but at the St Anne's End, into which City were attacking.
Centre-forward Seán Maguire, given the difficult task of holding possession, did well to set O'Connor away on the left and he was fouled by Joel Andersson in the corner.
Bolger floated in the free and O'Connor met it on the volley, with a deflection off defender Emil Wahlstrom diverting it past Peter Abrahamsson, sending the bulk of the 5,336 attendance wild.
Hacken struggled to rediscover their fluency after that, though Stephen Dooley had to head Paulinho's effort off the line from a corner before the visitors lost Mohammed to a nasty injury, necessitating six minutes of injury time.
The opening exchanges of the second period brought more Hacken pressure, but it was a dull kind with no clear-cut opportunities.
A nice move involving Paulinho, Arkivo and Gustafson allowed captain Rasmus Schuller a sight of goal from distance but McNulty wasn't troubled.
When City did break, they were able to win free-kicks in dangerous areas, with the referee - whose card profligacy had been flagged in advance - quickly brandishing three after avoiding paperwork in the first half.
Hacken sub Martin Ericsson just on, slipped while shooting but, moments later, City could surely have made things safe as Dooley set up Gearóid Morrissey only for Abrahamsson to tip over.
Another Hacken replacement, Demba Savage, and Paulinho also found their efforts repelled by McNulty.
CORK CITY - McNulty; McSweeney, Bennett, Browne, O'Connor; G Morrissey (Holohan 79), Bolger; Beattie, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire (O'Sullivan 90).
BK HÄCKEN - Abrahamsson; Andersson, Wahlstrom, Sudic, Arkivo; Abubakari, Gustafson, Schuller (Ericsson 64); Mohammed (Savage 45), Owoeri (Jeremjeff 74), Paulinho.
Ref - CM Taborda Xistra (Portugal)