Skonto Riga 2-1 St Patrick’s Athletic Report
ST PATRICK’S Athletic will have it all to do next week in Richmond Park if they are make it through to the second qualifying round of the Europa League after they lost 2-1 tonight to Latvian side Skonto Riga.
Kilnamanagh native Aaron Greene had the travelling fans cheering after 21 minutes when he scored a brilliant goal, but an equaliser 18 minutes later, saw the sides go in level at the break, and the Latvian side then bagged the winner in the second half.
To add to the defeat, Ger O’Brien, Sean Hoare and Christy Fagan all had to be withdrawn in the second half due to injury, and Liam Buckley will be hoping the trio can make a speedy recovery ahead of the second leg.
The Saints had the better of the opening exchanges, and with Christy Fagan back in the starting XI after missing the league game with Longford last Friday, they looked the better side, without really creating any real clear openings.
However, that all changed after 20 minutes when Chris Forrester pinged a brilliant pass from the half way line to the advancing Aaron Greene, and he took a touch before rifling the ball to the top corner with his left foot.
Olegs Timofejevs did look to have Greene covered, but the winger had the wherewithal to take a moment to settle himself, and his strike flew through the full-backs legs, leaving Andrejs Pavlovs with no chance.
Some indiscipline from Skonto saw them give away a succession of free-kicks midway through the half, and when Sean Hoare advanced into the penalty area to meet one of those set-pieces he looked to have his jersey pulled as he went for the ball.
The replays, however, suggested that Hoare was put off by the defender due to his presence rather than there being any infringement from Timofejevs.
Fagan then looked to be through when a mix up in the Skonto defence between Pavlovs and Vitalijs Smirnov, but the striker could not get enough on the ball to guide it over the goalkeeper.
As is often the case in these European games, a moment of magic is always just around the corner, and when Arturs Karasausks raided through from deep, he fired past Clarke from the edge of the box.
The Latvians finished the half the better, and the loss of O’Brien to injury during the break saw Lee Desmond come in for the Saints’ captain at the beginning of the second half.
Pat’s needed to remain in the game and be competitive in the first few minutes of second period, and they did just that, with Forrester eventually having a golden chance to make it 2-1.
However, his shot from the edge of the box after a sweeping Saints move was easy for the goalkeeper to save, to the dismay of the travelling fans.
And there was further heartbreak for the Incihcore faithful on 65 minutes when Skonto broke from deep in their own half to take the lead through Gutkovskis who converted after a pull back from Kovalovs.
Sean Hoare seemed to injure himself during that attack and had to go off, and with the game now fragmented, Gutkovskis could have made it 3-1, but shot narrowly wide with just over a quarter of an hour to play.
The home side looked happy to sit deep late on as St Pat’s applied pressure, and they had enough to see out the game and they head to Dublin leading 2-1.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke, O’Brien (Desmond, 45), Bermingham, Hoare (McGuinness, 67), Browne, Bolger, Chambers, Brennan; Forrester, Greene, Fagan (McGrath, 73).
SKONTO RIGA: Pavlovs, Timofejevs, Rode, Smirnovs, Murillo, Visņakovs (Isajevs, 72), Kozlovs, Jermolajevs, Kovaļovs, Gutkovskis (Lukanyuk, 83), Karasausks.