Cork City 0 AEK Larnaca 1
A LATE goal against the run of play undid Cork City and ended their incredible 26-game unbeaten run when AEK Larnaca scored a priceless away goal in this Europa League, second round qualifier at a packed Turner’s Cross last night.
Before a sell-out crowd of 6,441 the Cypriot side netted the winner in the 69th minute when full-back Joan Truyols poked home Hector 6,441 the Cypriot side netted the winner in the 69th minute when full-back Joan Truyols poked home Hector Hevel’s corner kick in a crowded goalmouth to give the visitors an advantage they will hardly relinquish back at their own brand new AEK Arena next Thursday night.
City were in unfamiliar territory as the underdogs going into last night’s first leg and they may hve shown the opposition too much respect.
It was the last home game for Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor though both are available for Bray away on Sunday afternoon and the return leg back in Larnaca on Thursday evening (8pm local time) and both players did an emotional lap of honour at the end of the game watched by new Preston boss Alex Neil.8pm local time) and both players did an emotional lap of honour at the end of the game watched by new Preston boss Alex Neil.
City made two changes from Sunday’s win over St Pat’s with skipper Greg Bolger and Gearoid Morrissey in for new boy Kieran Sadlier and Conor McCarthy both of whom were on the bench.
AEK, the seeded team and out of season in only their third competitive fixture since May 20, matched City with a 4-2-3-1 formation under Spanish manager Imanol Idiakez (45) from San Sebastian.
City were nervy and unsettled to begin with and it took a fine save by Mark McNulty to smother a shot by Florian Taulemesse and then Macedonian midfielder Ivan Trickovski had two efforts go wide before City threatened through man of the match Steven Beattie and Maguire whose cross was headed clear by Joan Truyols.
Maguire carried the ball along the end line before shooting into the side-netting as Cork finally got to grips with the opposition who had front man Taulemesse yellow carded when he lunged at McNulty who was in the act of saving from Jorge Larena’s goalbound strike.
It was an evenly contested first half and neither team shirked a meaty challenge but it seemed obvious that Cork’s best chance of a goal would come from a set piece.
AEK, league runners-up for the last three years but never having won their own domestic title, were a team built on possession and ball retention and the majority of their attacks went through top scorer Trickovski, their 44-times capped Macedonia star.
AEK in an changed all-black kit looked menacing in a tense atmosphere as City’s Stephen Dooley was booked on 38 minutes for a soft challenge on Taulemesse with City boss John Caulfield gesturing to the young French referee that the AEK player had clearly dived.
It was the first of several decisions that irked Caulfield throughout the 90 minutes.
The half ended 0-0 with City 3-1 up on corners and looking forward to playing into the ‘scoring goal’ in the second half.
AEK were slow on their restarts and wasted time at frees, throw-ins and corners and seemed content to settle for a draw away from home, presumably, knowing they felt confident of winning the return leg in the heat and humidity of Larnaca next week.
But 20 minutes from time and against the run of play, they scored a soft goal from a corner when full-back Joan Truyols poked the loose ball home in a crowded goalmouth to give the Cypriots a priceless away goal.
It was a sickening blow to Cork and one they hardly deserved and despite a late onslaught in added time Sean Maguire, Steven Beattie and Ryan Delaney all missed chances to tie the game up.
Cork is certainly up against it next week in Cyprus but they have scored away from home in Europe in all bar the Genk game in Hasselt last year.
They also beat Cypriot side, Apollon Limassol over two legs in a Champions’ League qualifier in 2006 and they will have to repeat that feat if they are to progress in this year’s competition.
CORK CITY (4-2-3-1): McNulty; Beattie, McCormack, Delaney, O’Connor; Bolger (c), Morrissey; Sheppard, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.
Subs: Sadlier for Dooley (62), Campion for Bolger (75), Griffin for Sheppard (78), Keohane, Ellis, McCarthy & Smith (not used)
AEK LARNACA (4-2-3-1): Pablo; Truyols, Catala (c), Mojsiv, Antoniades; Larena, Laban; Trickovski, Tomas, Hevel; Taulemesse.
Subs: Chamorro for Tomas (76), Boljevic for Trickovski (84), Rousias for Larena (89), Mytides, Pankov, Charalabides & Giorgallides (not used)
Referee: Francois Letexier (France).
Official attendance: 6,441.