St Patrick’s European hopes torn asunder
Legia Warsaw full value for win that sets up lucrative tie against Celtic
St Patrick’s Athletic 0, Legia Warsaw 5 (agg: 1-6): When Liam Buckley had spoken on Tuesday of the way in which his side’s European dream had been whipped away from them last year “in the blink of an eye,” it sounded as if he felt there could be no crueller fate.
He’ll have been reconsidering through this, a game during which their hopes of playing Celtic and making a pretty penny into the process gradually came to look like mere fantasy. The final scoreline was harsh with his team punished late on as they attempted to chase things but there could be no complaints for they were very well beaten.
They had looked to be in trouble really from the time Miroslav Radovic had put the Poles in front in the 25th minute. By then, St Patrick’s were on the back foot and not looking like a side that could easily shift the pattern of the game.
When Michal Zyro made in 2-0 after 70 minutes the game really looked beyond saving but Buckley, to be fair, had to try and what followed was predictable in its way with a defence weakened by one injury blow after another opened up time after time. In the end Radovic got a second, Marek Saganowski got a tap in a couple of minutes after coming on and, finally, Conan Byrne headed Tomasz Brzyski’s cross into his own net.
It was hard on the home support and terrific for the more vocal visitors but there was no great sense of injustice about any of it.
The home side had actually made a bright enough start with Killian Brennan producing the night’s first two shots but both were hit straight at Dusan Kuciak and Buckley’s side struggled all evening to seriously test the Polish goalkeeper even when, it seemed, they had set themselves up nicely.
They did continue to generate chances but their finishing was half-hearted and their best attempts came from Keith Fahey who saw one shot deflected wide before the break and a second not long after it fly just the wrong side of the post.
Further back, the midfielder stood out for his composure on the ball and ability to spot team mates in promising positions off it but much of the Dubliners’ passing was poor. Under pressure, they struggled to retain possession but threw a fair bit of it away even when they weren’t.
That might have been less of a problem had they defended more effectively but as Legia settled and shifted the bulk of the game a little closer to the home side’s area, the St Patrick’s back four immediately started to struggle.
They hadn’t been helped by the loss, during the pre-match warm up, of Ken Oman to a calf strain but Derek Pender should have been an able enough replacement. Collectively, though, the whole back four seemed to be battling to get to grips with things and flirted with disaster in their attempts to play their way out.
Normally one of the team’s standout players, Ger O’Brien wasn’t immune to the problems this time with the right back misjudging more than one ball over his head and nearly playing his team into real trouble when he mishit an attempt to find his own goalkeeper.
The team skipper looked to be less than completely fit and made way in the second half for Sean Hoare but by that stage the locals were behind and finding it pretty much impossible to rediscover their early impetus. Subsequently, they lost Kenny Browne to injury too while Ian Bermingham hobbled his way to the final whistle. Really, though, the whole team was limping at that stage.
“Maybe the result here tonight was a little better than the performance,” acknowledged Legia coach Henning Berg afterwards. “The reverse might have been true last week but I think we were the better side in both games and we are happy to go through.
“It was hard for St Patrick’s,” he continued magnanimously, “and we have to give them credit because they played some good football but when we scored two goals they had to go forward and things opened up after which we took advantage of. They were unlucky with injuries too. It was hard on them but of course I’m pleased.”
Buckley, predictably, was not. He was, he said “very disappointed, particularly after the way we played last week. The first half wasn’t too bad. We kept our shape but we forgot to play. Maybe we gave them too much respect but if you put in a performance like that when you’re playing such a good team then you’re going to be in trouble and we were.”
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien (Hoare, 62 mins), Foran, Browne (Lynch 72 mins), Bermingham; Fahey, Bolger; Byrne, Brennan, Forrester (Quigley, half-time); Fagan.
LEGIA WARSAW: Kuciak; Broz, Rzezniczak, Astiz, Brzyski; Vrdoljak, Jodlowiec; Zyro, Duda (Saganowski, 84 mins), Kucharczyk (Kosecki, 84 mins); Radovic (Piech, 87 mins).
Referee: A Ekberg (Sweden).