Cork City bow out of Champions League in Warsaw
Legia score in first half to put the tie effectively beyond League of Ireland champions
Cork City’s James Keohane after his team concede their first goal in Warsaw. Photograph: Tomasz Jastrzebowski/Inpho
It’s on to Monday’s Europa League third round draw for Cork City after they were unable to spring a surprise and haul back Legia Warsaw in Tuesday night’s Champions League opening tie.
As was expected, the calibre of the Polish team proved too much and the first-half breakthrough by Jose Kante meant the opening round was effectively beyond City before the League of Ireland champions had mustered a chance of note.
A second from the penalty spot with 17 minutes remaining by returning captain Miroslav Radovic and a late third from substitute Carlitos were the least Legia deserved on a night they were once again dominant in possession.
While they didn’t create much goalmouth action themselves, Cork will regret failing to maximise their set-pieces from Barry McNamee and Jimmy Keohane.
On a couple of occasions, free-kick deliveries were pinpoint without teammates arriving on cue to expose a imperfect Legia backline. Graham Cummins was particularly culpable in not profiting from the space afforded.
Trailing by a one-goal deficit from last week’s first leg at Turners Cross, John Caulfield had pleaded with his team to keep their illustrious opponents at bay for the opening half hour.
They came close to achieving the mission only for a mix-up to unhinge them. After only half-clearing the initial danger, the ball was switched to defender Mateusz Wieteska on the left. His deep cross looked routine for Peter Cherrie to collect but, with defender Shane Griffin in his way, Cafu was first to the loose ball and his cut-back was volleyed in by Guinea international Kante.
The concession seemed to spring City into life as Karl Sheppard, who reached the knockout stages of the Europa League in 2011 with Shamrock Rovers, advanced at pace and arrowed a rising shot that beat Arkadiusz Malarz but cleared the crossbar by a yard.
Malarz in the Legia goal made the brave decision to start in the week his father passed away. Despite looking rather vulnerable from crosses, he wasn’t really tested by City thereafter.
Instead, he was next mainly visible following the second goal. Captain Miroslav Radovic, having missed last week’s first leg, was at his forceful best in midfield and drew a clumsy foul from his opposite number Conor McCormack.
It gave Norwegian referee Kai Erik Steen little choice except to point to the spot and there was little Cherrie, once again deputising for the injured Mark McNulty between the posts, could do about the Serbian’s ferocious penalty into the top corner.
With tired bodies searching for a consolation, the Rebels were once again unlocked on the break with two minutes left.
Legia’s main summer transfer coup was capturing last season’s top scorer Carlitos from Wisla Krakow and he wasted little time on his European debut. The Spaniard was calmness personified in the box by making time and space to rifle in the third from 10 yards.
“It is very difficult for a non-seeded team to get through in the Champions League,” reflected Caulfield afterwards.
"When you go against teams that are better technically and big clubs like Legia, you have to take your chances when you get them.
“Our Europa League tie is a month away and it's all about us bouncing back and getting ready for Derry on Monday.”
LEGIA WARSAW: A Malarz; I Astiz, W Remy, M Wieteska (C Phillipps 69 mins); M Vesovic, Cafu, K Maczynski, M Radovic, M Kucharczyk (A Hlousek 46 mins); J Kante (Carlitos 65mins), D Nagy.
CORK CITY: P Cherrie; S Beattie (D Kane 79 mins), D Delaney, S McLoughlin, S Griffin; C McCormack, G Buckley (J O’Hanlon 80 mins); K Sheppard, J Keohane, B McNamee (K Sadlier 79 mins), G Cummins.
Referee: Kai Erik Steen (Norway).