Cork City 0, AEK Larnaca (Cyprus) 1
Cork City’s Euro dream is very much in the balance after they suffered a first defeat in 26 matches losing out to AEK Larnaca in a tense and highly competitive Europa League qualifier at Turner’s Cross last night, writes Noel Spillane.
Before a near sell out crowd of 6,441 City were undone in the 69th minute with a goal against the run of play when defender Joan Truyols poked the ball home from a corner by Hector Hevel at the St. Anne’s end.
City were the underdogs going into combat but the Cypriots’ one goal advantage gives them a huge boost ahead of next Thursday’s return leg in Cyprus.
It was the last home appearance for top scorer Sean Maguire and Irish U21 star Kevin O’Connor – both available for Bray on Sunday and the return leg in Larnaca and they were watched by new Preston boss Alex Neil.
Cork made two changes from Sunday’s win over St Pat’s with Greg Bolger and Gearoid Morrissey in for Kieran Sadlier and Conor McCarthy.
AEK, the seeded team, and in only their third competitive fixture since May 20 went with a 4-2-3-1 formation under Spanish manager Imanol Idiakez .
AEK, league runners-up in Cyprus for the last three years, but never crowned league champions made the better start with Ivan Trickovski shooting wide twice before Mark McNulty made a fine save to keep out Florian Taulemesse.
The AEK striker was booked on 20 minutes for going in hard on McNulty as the City ‘keeper parried a goalbound drive from Jorge Larena while Maguire had a run along the end line before shooting into the side netting.
Trickovski, capped 44 times by Macedonia and AEK’s top scorer was the main man for the Cypriots’ on a night when Steven Beattie was voted man of the match.
Cork beat Cypriot side, Apollon Limassol over two legs in a Champions League qualifier in 2006 and it looks like they will have to do the same again if they are to survive in this year’s competition.
Shamrock Rovers also tasted defeat, despite two goals from Graham Burke.
The Hoops fell to a 3-2 defeat to Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Republic in Tallaght.
Both second legs will take place next Thursday evening.
Cork City (4-2-3-1) - McNulty; Beattie, McCormack, Delaney, O’Connor; Bolger (capt) – Campion 75, Morrissey; Sheppard (Griffin 78), Buckley, Dooley (Sadlier 62); Maguire.
Subs. Keohane, Ellis, McCarthy & Smith (not used)
AEK Larnaca (4-2-3-1) - Pablo; Truyois, Catala (capt), Mojsiv, Antoniades; Larena (Rousias 89), Laban; Trickovski (Boljevic 84), Tomas (Chamorro 76), Hevel; Taulemesse.
Subs. Mytides, Pankov, Charalabides & Giorgallides (not used)
Referee: Francois Letexier (France)
Official attendance: 6,441.