Fagan’s finish puts Pat’s in control

A first-half goal from Christy Fagan was enough to get St Patrick’s Athletic off to a winning start in their Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg tie against Icelandic side IBV Vestmannaeyjar at Richmond Park last night.

Against long odds given the breadth of European club competition these days, this was a repeat of last year’s meeting between the two clubs when Pats overturned a one-nil away deficit to win 2-1 on aggregate.

Both sides were much changed in the intervening year and both went into this one in good shape domestically with the IBV coming off the back of a six-game winning streak in which they’d scored 21 goals and conceded just six.

But against a Pats side which has conceded just nine in 14 league games, it was clear that they would have their work cut out if they were to take a precious away goal back to Iceland.

And they came very close in the 11th minute when Christian Olsen got onto the end of a long ball down the left flank and, with Pats goalkeeper Brendan Clarke rushing out of his goal to try and snuff out the danger, the IVB striker was able to measure a high lob which bounced off the top of the bar and over.

Then, 20 minutes in, only a great block inside the box from skipper Conor Kenna prevented Tryggvi Gudmundsson getting his shot on target as the Icelandic side threatened again. But that was about as good as it got for IBV on the night.

Pats were playing some measured stuff in the build-up but quality in their final ball was sorely lacking in the early stages. In response, Sean O’Connor opted for the more direct route, unleashing a shot from distance which was comfortably held by IBV ‘keeper Abel Dihara.

And it was O’Connor who again came close for Pats when his in-swinging free from the right — whether intended as a cross or a shot — had Dihara back-pedalling to tip the ball over the corner of crossbar and post.

The breakthrough for the home side finally came six minutes before half-time and highlighted the value of one well-delivered cross, when a brilliant ball across the face of goal from full-back Ger O’ Brien was met on the full by Christy Fagan, who beat Dihara from close range.

That was pretty much the end of Fagan’s night, however, the goal-scorer failing to recover from a knock and being replaced by Dean Kelly just a couple of minutes into the second half.

Not that Kelly missed much as the game went into a prolonged period of doziness, only a lively final five minutes — during which new signing Anto Flood entered the fray — threatening to rouse the attendance of 1,652.

With a goal under their belts, Pats’ caution might have been understandable but there was no explaining the visitors’ lack of urgency or ambition, unless they had come to the conclusion that an away goal wasn’t all that important and a one-goal loss was better than risking something worse.

Next week’s second leg in Iceland will reveal if there was method to their apparent madness.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Clarke, O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham, Darren Meenan, Chambers, Russell, Bolger, O’ Connor (Flood 86), Fagan.

IBV: Dihara, Baldock, Gudjonsson, Christiansen, Garner, Jeffs (Thorvardarson 90), Thoranrinsson,Valdimarsson, Mawejje (Olafsson 83), Gudmundsson, Olsen (Spear 43)

Referee: Igor Satchi (Moldova)

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