St Patrick’s Athletic 0 IFK Norrkoping 2
If teams got anything much for extra effort when competing in Europe then St Patrick's Athletic might well be heading to Sweden next week with a decent shout of qualification but other qualities count for more at this level as Harry Kenny and his players knew well before this game started at Richmond Park.
Long before its end, it seemed that they lacked a few of them in sufficient quantities to get the better of Norrkoping.
Through the second half, they showed a bit more attacking bite and though they didn’t score they will want to believe that anything is still possible. But on the overall evidence of this it will require a remarkable turnaround for the Dubliners to overturn things next Thursday.
The hosts, to be fair, chased after their opponents from the outset but having initially looked like they simply needed to pause long enough to settle back into their own pre-match game-plan, it gradually became apparent that if they had one other than this, then it had gone out the window due.
The closest they came to taking the lead was a first half penalty shout Kenny claimed might have changed things had it been given but the hosts kept things scoreless until 10 minutes into the second half and had actually looked to have got a better grip on things in that short spell between the break and opposition breakthrough but the real pity of it was that after so much hard work under pressure, that first goal came from a mistake made under almost none. Ciaran Kelly played an attempted pass out of defence straight to Alexander Fransson who promptly played in Simon Thern for a clinical enough finish.
The Swedes were far from perfect but they still looked generally better equipped and far more effective on the ball than their hosts here, moving it about almost effortlessly at times while being pursued by locals who were clearly putting absolutely everything into the effort to contain them.
A major part of the problem for Kenny’s side was the number of unforced errors being made and whatever the percentage in the first two thirds, in and around Norrkoping box through the opening half it was pretty much 100 with through balls and crosses consistently overhit and more straightforward passes simply misplaced.
The locals were significantly better in the second half and at 1-0 down Ian Bermingham finally forced Isak Pettersson into a decent save. Still, the Swedes looked far more likely to get the game's second goal and though the goalkeeper had to make another smart stop in the closing minutes, it was indeed 2-0 by then.
Again, the goal will go down as an error with Lee Desmond ultimately turning the ball past his own keeper as he made an instinctive effort to keep Kasper Larsen's header out but it might easily have been three or four by then, especially if Jordan Larsson had shown the sort of flair for finishing that his father Henrik used to be celebrated for.
The 22 year-old was a treat to watch when in full flow here but he passed up a succession of good chances after Brendan Clarke had done really well to deny him an opening goal 23 minutes in.
With Thern repeatedly teeing him up, he seemed certain to grab at least one over the course of the 90 minutes but the closest he came in the end was a shot that struck the outside of the angle after a wonderful break and interchange of passes that also involved Karl Holmberg.
For the hosts, Rhys McCabe’s introduction helped things and Lennon had a couple of late half chances but there were a few scrambles too immediately in front of Clarke. Then, when it was over, the Swedish supporters celebrated as though their place in the next round was already assured and though their hosts would dearly love to prove them wrong next week, it didn’t seem overly presumptuous.
St Patrick's Athletic: Clarke; Desmond, Kelly, Toner; Madden, Coleman (McCabe, 64 mins), Lennon, Clifford (Clifford, 83 mins), Bermingham; Shaw (D Clarke, 64 mins), Drennan.
IFK Norrkoping: Pettersson; Dagerstal, Larsen, Lauritsen; Gerson, Fransson, Thorarinsson (Haksabanovic, 76 mins), Skrabb (Binaku, 85 mins); Larsson. Nyman (Holmberg, 70 mins), Thern.
Referee: A Constantin (Romania)