Europa League: St Patrick’s Athletic take more than hope home from Riga

Aaron Greene’s first-half goal gives Liam Buckley’s side every chance of going through

St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Greg Bolger finds his path block by a trio of Skonto Riga players during the Europa League first qualifying round first leg  at Skonto Stadions. Photograph: Evija Trifanova/Inpho

St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Greg Bolger finds his path block by a trio of Skonto Riga players during the Europa League first qualifying round first leg at Skonto Stadions. Photograph: Evija Trifanova/Inpho

 

Skonto Riga (Latvia) 2 St Patrick’s Athletic 1

In the end it was a loss for St Pat’s at the Stadions Skonto in Riga on Thursday evening but there are plenty of positives, as well as an away goal, that Liam Buckley’s side can take back to Inchicore for next Thursday’s second leg.

As has been the case on many occasions this season it was the magic of Chris Forrester, starting from the right, who created the opening to give the visitors an early lead.

With just over 21 minutes gone the 22-year-old picked up the ball just inside his own half before spearing a pass over the defence and onto the foot of Aaron Greene, who was rushing into the box from the left.

From there the Dubliner still had a lot of work to do but he did it magnificently, opening his body up and swerving a left-footed volley between the legs of Olegs Timofejevs and into the right-top corner.

Pat’s had a chance to double their lead when Seán Hoare found himself with a free diving header at the back-post from a Killian Brennan free-kick but he could only direct it wide.

But European competition is ruthless, especially against a team that has won 15 of the 25 Virsliga titles in Latvia.

Just seconds after Christy Fagan had almost capitalised on a Skonto defensive error, the home side went straight up the other end and found an equaliser.

Arturs Karasausks took possession on the right wing, dropped his shoulder, cut inside and played a one-two with Edgars Jermolajevs on the edge of the area. On receiving it back the Latvian fired it first time into the top corner.

The home side were buoyed by the goal and that showed as they came out looking the better team in the second half, aided by the withdrawal at the break of Pat’s captain Ger O’Brien with an injury.

His replacement, Lee Desmond, was left wanting when Igors Kozlovs sped by him to the end line before cutting it back to Karasausks. His shot was blocked but fell kindly to Vladislavs Gutkovskis who fired into the bottom corner from close range to give the Latvians a slender advantage going into the second leg.

SKONTO: Pavlovs (capt); Timofejevs, Smirnovs, Rode; Murrilo (Tatiefang, 90+2), Visnakovs (Isajevs, 72), Kovlovs, Jermolajevs, Kovalovs, Gutkovskis (Lukanyuk, 83); Karsausks.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien (capt) (Desmond, 45), Hoare (McGuinness, 67), Browne, Bermingham; Bolger, Brennan, Chambers, Greene, Forrester; Fagan (McGrath, 73).

Referee: Fran Jovic (Croatia).

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