Cork City earned a deserved draw - and bagged a valuable away goal with it - in the first leg of this Europa League second qualifying round tie on Thursday evening but it looked for a while as though it could have been better, writes Brendan O’Brien.
City played well for long spells against a multi-national Swedish side and led with just seven minutes to go, but the stalemate was a fair reflection of the game’s ebbs and flows on a warm and sunny night at the Bravida Stadium in front of 2,022 fans.
The sides meet again in Cork next Thursday.
City bossed the majority of the first-half, their possession football denying Hacken any of the momentum normally associated with home teams in Europe and, at the same time, carving out a good handful of chances themselves.
Striker Sean Maguire had the ball in the net after just seven minutes but his deflected effort from 20 yards was ruled out by the French referee for a perceived handball earlier in the move. It was innocuous at worst.
Nonetheless, the visitors kept pressing and, amidst a number of shots from distance that failed to bother the Hacken keeper, Garry Buckley came within inches of connecting with Alan Bennett’s knock down in the box.
Hacken’s best chances in the half came courtesy of City with Gearoid Morrissey’s lazy ball being intercepted. It was only a double save from Paulinho and John Owoeri by Mark McNulty that spared his teammate’s blushes and kept City on equal terms.
The second-half was less structured than the first but City struck for an all-important third goal on 64 minutes with Maguire converting a penalty by sending the goalkeeper the wrong way after Stephen Dooley had been pulled back by Baba Mensah.
Mensah’s subsequent dismissal for depriving Dooley of a clear scoring chance only added to the creeping suspicion that City could go on and claim a third win on five European visits to Sweden but it wasn’t quite to be.
City had survived a few scares by a whisker in the second-half but their luck ran out with just seven minutes to go when, despite an excellent McNulty save from a Paulinho free wide on the left, John Owoeri volleyed home the rebound.
A good night nonetheless. And all to play for in Cork.
BK Hacken: P Abrahamsson; B Mensah, E Wahlstrom, J Sudic, K Arkivuo; S Gustafsson, R Schuller, M Ericsson; N Mohammed, J Oweiri, Paulinho.
Subs: D Savage for Ericsson (56); J Andersson for Mohammed (66); E Binaku for Arkivuo (78).
Cork City: M McNulty; M McSweeney, K Browne, A Bennett, K O’Connor; G Morrissey, G Bolger; S Beattie, G Buckley, S Dooley; S Maguire.
Subs: K Sheppard for Beattie (74); M O’Sullivan for Buckley (85); C Healy for Maguire (92).
Referee: A Delerue (France).