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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

St Patrick's Athletic pay the penalty for wasteful finishing as CSKA Sofia get to gloat at full-time

FINE margins and harsh lessons tend to go hand in hand at this level and St Pat’s found that out the hard way as their European bubble finally burst.

But not before both teams tried to burst each other after the final whistle.

An ugly melee broke out when Jamie Lennon and Bradley De Nooijer squared up with the latter dismissed and then amidst it all, Adam O’Reilly, also saw red post match.

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In Bulgaria a week ago, St Pat’s finished on a high late in the game but this time their hopes were dashed by a self-inflicted early blow.

CSKA scored from a 12th minute corner when the basic art of defending completely escaped Tim Clancy’s team before a late penalty sealed it for the visitors.

In between all of that, St Pat’s died on their sword but they can have few complaints or preach about hard luck stories after passing up the chances they did.

Because this game was there for the taking and the giddy CSKA celebrations post match will grate for some time to come.

CSKA manager Saša Ilić played in both Champions League games against Bohemians when he was a Red Bull Salzburg player.

But he was also the FK Partizan captain when Shamrock Rovers beat them to reach the Europa League group stages in 2011.

He didn’t need another Irish side causing him problems.

Stanislav Shopov celebrates after the game (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

But CSKA were gifted the initiative and the soft concession of that opening goal was such a killer blow for St Pat’s at such an early juncture in proceedings.

Going to Bulgaria last week, Saints knew that CSKA were particularly dangerous from set-pieces having scored three against Makedonija in the previous round.

So you can imagine the inquest that will come having seen Mauricio Garcez afforded the freedom of Tallaght to head home Thibaut Vion’s corner unmarked.

Still, St Pat’s refused to buckle and were the more adventurous side all the way to the half-time break although CSKA were the more threatening in the final third.

The visitor’s trouble was getting the ball to their attacking players consistently as their midfield completely malfunctioned with O’Reilly and Lennon so tenacious.

Still, Garcez should have doubled the lead midway through but, from six yards, clearly wasn’t expecting Ivan Turitsov’s ball to drop so kindly and it skewed off his foot and wide.

St Pat’s had plenty of joy getting forward but, appreciating the threat posed by their opponents, were also reluctant to push too many supporting players forward.

That degree of caution meant Eoin Doyle, Billy King and O’Reilly were often left duking it out for themselves on the occasions when they broke deep behind enemy lines.

O’Reilly, such a ball of energy in midfield, had the best of those chances but hesitated just a fraction on the edge of the box allowing Gustavo Busatto to save.

And Joe Redmond brought an acrobatic save from Busatto moments later, when the goalkeeper tipped his looping effort from outside the box over the crossbar

Joseph Anang, whose saves in Slovenia and Bulgaria were so vital, then denied Brayan Moreno at close range while O’Reilly couldn’t connect cleanly on another Saints effort.

Midway through the second-half, he was cursing his luck again when a close range attempt to reach a lovely Chris Forrester ball was snuffed out.

But the ball worked its way back to Forrester and this time Anto Breslin, from six yards, couldn’t finish the job when the ball fell at his feet.

Roared on by close to a full house, the Saints pushed hard for a winner in those late stages with Serge Atakayi - last week’s match winner - a handful off the bench.

Busatto denied him after a slippery run in off the wing and O’Reilly, once again in a brilliant position, just couldn’t put away the rebound.

But at this level in Europe, you have to take the chances that fall your way and CSKA punished the Saints with nine minutes remaining.

Ivan Turitsov scores his sides second goal from a penalty (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Harry Brockbank was in a battle with Mauricio Garcez as a deep diagonal ball dropped in the box, but it clipped the Englishman’s hand and Turitsov slotted home.

Fine margins, and harsh lessons with frustration and elation colliding after the final whistle in an ugly soup of flailing limbs.

ST PAT’S: Anang; Brockbank (Owolabi 82), Redmond, Grivosti; Cotter, O’Reilly, Lennon, Breslin; Forrester, King (Atakayi 65); E Doyle

CSKA SOFIA: Busatto; Turitsov, Mattheij, Koch, De Nooijer; (Vion Geferson 71), Youga; Yomov (Shopov 62), Lindseth (Tufegdzic 72), Maurício Garcez; Moreno (Nazon 62).

Referee: H Fesnic (Romania)


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