Brave Fingal pay heavy price for sluggish start

MANAGER Liam Buckley’s pre-match wish of keeping it tight and hoping to score first never materialised as Sporting Fingal bowed out of Europe at Dalymount Park last night.

Trailing 3-2 from the first leg in Madeira, Sporting needed to start confidently. But in contrast to their composed display in the first half in Madeira, they appeared nervous from the start, as Maritimo went at them from the opening whistle, almost scoring inside the first minute.

By the time Maritimo did go ahead from a penalty on 20 minutes, they’d created three other chances. And it got little better for Sporting as Maritimo, oozing confidence, went further ahead midway through the second half.

A late flurry from Sporting brought a brace of goals from substitute Eamon Zayed either side of a third for Maritimo who, in truth, never looked in danger of losing the tie.

Sporting’s best laid plans almost came unstuck inside the opening minute when Baba put Cherrad in on goal. The Algeria striker rounded Brendan Clarke and looked set to sidefoot the ball home from the angle, only for left-back Lorcan Fitzgerald to make a goal saving block. Clearly intent on getting an early goal to kill off the tie, Maritimo worked Clarke twice in quick succession minutes later, forcing the Sporting keeper to tip over from Tcho’s long-range free-kick before Baba headed Tcho’s corner into the home keeper’s grateful arms.

Clarke then had to show his agility to get across his goal at full stretch to turn Baba’s shot out for Maritimo’s third corner, all inside seven minutes.

Sporting did settle with Conan Byrne giving Pecanha a nervous moment when he spilled a low cross.

But it was a brief respite as Maritimo took the lead on the night on 20 minutes. Maher’s reckless challenge took down Danilo and Alonso sent Clarke the wrong way from the spot.

Needing to score twice now, that scarcely eased Sporting’s nerves and they were carved open again on 28 minutes. Marquinho, played through by Tcho, drilled his shot wide when he should have done much better.

If there was hope it stemmed from Pecanha’s poor handling as he failed to hold Ronan Finn’s crisp 30-yard drive a minute later with Kirby just failing to get in on the loose ball before the keeper gather.

Maritimo, with eight Brazilians again starting, remained much the better side into the second half.

Alonso bounced a cross off the bar before they doubled their lead on 67 minutes when Clarke couldn’t prevent Marquinho’s 25-yard drive finding the net despite getting a hand to it.

As in the first leg, there was a flurry of late activity.

Marquinho had a shot deflected onto the bar before Sporting got a goal back from Zayed who swept home Byrne cross from the right on 82 minutes.

Pecanha would then make the save of the night from a Kirby header before Maritimo substitute Kanu restored their two goal lead five minutes later, making amends for a dreadful miss shortly before, when put through on goal by Baba.

Remarkably, Zayed scored again for Sporting on 89 minutes, finding the net with a superb side foot volley from Shaun Williams’ cross.

SPORTING FINGAL: Clarke; O’Brien, Maher, Browne, Fitzgerald; Finn, McFaul (Zayed, 65), Williams; Byrne, Crowe, Kirby.

MARITIMO: Pecanha; Ricardo Esteves, Joao Guilherme, Robson, Alonso; Marquinho (Luciano Amaral, 71), Danilo, Sousa, Tcho (Kanu, 81); Baba, Cherrad (Fidelis, 89).

Referee: Marco Borg (Malta).

Selected other results: Olympiacos 6 Besa 1 (Agg 11-1); HNK Cibalia 0 Cliftonville 0 (Agg 0-1); Bangor City 2 FC Honka 1 (Agg 3-2); FK Qarabag 1 Portadown 1 (Agg 3-2).

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