Cork City have everything to play for back at Turner’s Cross next week after a battling performance and a slender one goal defeat to Genk in their Europa League, third round qualifier at the magnificent Luminus Arena in Genk tonight, writes Noel Spillane.
The match winning goal was scored by Jamacia’s flying winger Leon Bailey after 31 minutes but City boss John Caulfield knows this tie is far from over with a place in the play-offs up for grabs at Turner’s Cross next Thursday night.
City were unchanged for the third game in a row while Genk made one change from their predicted line up with Greek striker Nicholas Karelis coming into the side for Neeskens Kebano, a 24 year old Congolese international and ex-PSG youth player who started on the bench.
Both teams lined-out 4-2-3-1 in this first leg, third round clash at the 25,000 capacity Luminus Stadium on a sunny yet humid evening in Flanders.
Genk a team in transition according to ex-manager Alex McLeish were obviously missing their best centre-half and leader, Christian Kabasele, a Belgian international, who moved to Watford earlier in the week.
Maguire had two early half chances for Cork that went high over the bar and wide of the far post before Genk threatened with their pace as Alejandro Pozuelo headed Buffel’s cross just wide after seven minutes and Niklolaos Karelis, their Greek danger man, dragged another shot wide of the far post.
Steven Beattie’s powerful drive forced Marco Bizot to a punched save after 12 minutes and then Kevin O’Connor’s corner was glanced wide a stretching Maguire on the back post.
Cork had made a solid start and with the game nearing the half hour mark their goal remained intact but that was to change with 30.17 on the clock when Genk scored.
A mix up on the half-way line between Maguire and Michael McSweeney was instantly punished when Karelis played in the pacey Leon Bailey and he netted with a low drive.
And the same player was in again on 39 minutes but McNulty dived to save from the flying winger.
City were composed in the second half too and might have nicked a goal through Gearoid Morrissey and Steven Beattie in the last quarter of an hour.
Morrissey was set up by Dooley but stabbed the ball just wide from the edge of the box but it was McNulty who ensure Cork went home happy with a smart save at the end from Samatta.
City boss John Caulfield was delighted with his team and said the players were shattered in the dressing room but they had given him everything on the night and he believes City can wipe out this deficit and hopefully progress in the competition next week in front of their own fans.
Genk (4-2-3-1) - Bizot; Walsh, Dewaest, Wouters, Uronen; Pozuelo, Ndidi; Buffel (capt), Karelis, Bailey; Samatta.
Subs. Kebano for Karelis (72 mins), Trossard, Sabak, Heynen, Janssens, Buyens & Koteles (not used)
Cork City (4-2-3-1) - McNulty; McSweeney, Bennett, Browne, O’Connor; Bolger (capt), G. Morrissey; Beattie, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.
Subs. Healy, Holohan, O’Sullivan, Sheppard, D. Morrissey, Turner & Connor (not used)
Referee: Clayton Pisani (Malta)
Official attendance: 7,765.