by Noel Spillane
AEK Larnaca 1, Cork City 0
(AEK won 2-0 on aggregate)
THE heat and humidity of Larnaca and the AEK Arena proved to be too much for FAI Cup holders Cork City as they bowed out of the Europa League here in Cyprus tonight.
There was to be no fond farewells for Seanie Maguire and Kevin O’Connor as they head to Preston this weekend to start new careers at Deepdale.
City aiming to overturn a first leg deficit made one change with Jimmy Keohane in midfield and Karl Sheppard dropping to the bench while the home side were unchanged from their first leg win in Cork.
Manager John Caulfield made four changes from the team that beat Bray with Alan Bennett, Kieran Sadlier, Shane Griffin and Sheppard dropping out and in came Bolger, Dooley, Morrissey and O’Connor.
City suffered their first defeat of the season last Thursday when edged out 1-0 by the Cypriots and the home team made the better start again last night.
Twice in the opening minutes Mark McNulty had to make fine saves to deny last week’s goal-scorer Truyols and Taulemesse with a header in the first five minutes.
AEK, who celebrated their birthday this week, won the Cypriot FA Cup back in 2006 but in their 23 year history they have never won the league championship
The home team dominated possession again and Cork were pegged back in their own half for much for the opening 45 minutes and their passing was poor and their first touch deserted them.
They did create a great chance for Stephen Dooley on 22 minutes when Maguire set him up but the Portstewart man delayed his shot and ended up drilling just wide of Juan Pablo’s goal but it was to signal City’ best spell as Garry Buckley, Kevin O’Connor and Jimmy Keohane all had decent chances.
AEK broke Cork hearts with a lead goal on 33 minutes and somewhat against the run of play.
Conor McCormack’s clearance fell out to Hevel and his deflected cross was headed home by the diving Florian Taulemesse to give the Cypriot’s a two-goal aggregate lead.
AEK were lucky not to have goal-getter Taukemesse red carded for a bad studs up tackle on McCormack after 51 minutes but the yellow he picked up keeps him out of next week’s clash with Dinamo Minsk.
And City were denied a late penalty when Hevel blatantly pushed Maguire in the box with under 20 minutes to go.
AEK Larnaca (4-2-3-1) - Pablo; Truyois, Catala (capt), Mojsov, Antoniades; Larena, Laban; Trickovski, Tomas, Hevel; Taulemesse.
Subs. Chamorro for Tomas (72 mins), Mytides for Taulemesse (80 mins), Boljevic for Trickovski (87 mins), Soria, Pankov, Boljevic, Charalabides & Giorgalides (not used)
Cork City (4-2-3-1) - McNulty; Beattie, Delaney, McCormack, O’Connor; Bolger (capt), Morrissey; Keohane, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.
Subs. Sadlier & Campion for Dooley & Buckley (60 mins), Sheppard for Keohane (66 mins), Griffin, Ellis, McCarthy & Smith (not used)
Referee: Pavle Radovanovic (Montenegro)