LEVADIA TALLINN 0 - 2 CORK CITY: John Caulfield hailed his side’s clinical away performance as their two-goal Europa League first qualifying round first leg win in Estonia last night leaves the second leg close to a formality.
Garry Buckley’s first-half goal and Steven Beattie’s brilliant strike late on gave the SSE Airtricity League leaders a priceless advantage at the picturesque Rannastaadion in Parnu last night. The win leaves City in an enviable position heading into next week’s return at Turner’s Cross.
“I honestly don’t see Levadia getting three goals against us at Turner’s Cross given our own superb defensive record there,” said Caulfield. “Having said that, we will respect our Estonian opponents. We have only conceded 10 goals at home in the league and that’s a remarkable record.
“It was a great show from the lads and we fully deserved it and we scored two great goals on a rock hard pitch and in difficult conditions with a strong and swirling wind. I think the game turned in a minute coming up to half-time with the red card and our breakthough goal. I think their heads may have dropped a little after that double blow.”
City had to compensate for the loss of skipper Alan Bennett who failed a late fitness test on an ankle injury meaning Conor McCormack acted as an emergency centre-half in a reshaped back four and Greg Bolger came into midfield and wore the captain’s armband.
Levadia were Estonian league runners-up last year, with an almost identical domestic record this season as City. They came into last night’s game with a 17-match unbeaten run having scored 48 goals.
It was a tentative start from both teams in humid conditions with Sean Maguire and the home side’s Pavel Marin missing half chances before Bolger had a 30-yard drive saved by Lapmets in the home goal.
City enjoyed decent possession as the half aged and they were the more attacking side as Maguire had a shot blocked by Gando. Kevin O’Connor had a free saved while Buckley was unable to apply a finish after Stephen Dooley’s 25th minute shot was spilled by the keeper.
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Levadia were struggling and the Estonians suffered a telling blow after Cameroon-born centre-half Tabi Manga was sent off, picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Maguire. Inside a minute of his dismissal, Cork took a well deserved lead. Bolger rolled a short free for attacking midfielder Buckley to strike a low drive under the defensive wall to the net. Levadia already looked a beaten side.
City might have been scored a second goal but for a wonderful, one-handed save by Lepmets from Maguire’s header five minutes before the break.
Cork had claims for a spot kick midway through the second half when Maguire dummied the ball and Gearoid Morrissey took a tumble in the box but the Danish referee waved play on.
City rode their luck when Levadia’s Krznaric crashed a shot off the underside of the bar but the ball was adjudged to have stayed out, and Beattie settled this tie with a screamer into the far top corner with eight minutes to go.
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The return leg is back at Turner’s Cross on Thursday night and the outright winners are likely to play AEK Larnaca from Cyprus after they beat Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps 5-0.
The second qualifying round is scheduled for July 13 and 20 and if the Leesiders make it through, they will be away again in the first leg.
LEVADIA TALLINN (4-2-3-1):
Lepmets; Dudarev, Manga, Podholjuzin, Gando; Krznaric, Roosnupp; Marin, Morelli, Kobzar; Hunt (capt)
Artjunin for Roosnupp (half-time), Andreev for Marin (71 mins), Teever for Kobzar (88 mins), Raudsepp, Pikker, Mutso & Kuusma (not used)
CORK CITY (4-2-3-1):
McNulty; Keohane, McCormack, Delaney, O’Connor; Bolger (capt), Morrissey; Sheppard, Buckley, Dooley; Maguire.
Beattie for Sheppard (68 mins), Campion for Buckley (74 mins), Griffin for Dooley (80 mins), Ellis, O’Mahony, McCarthy & Smith (not used)
Jorgen Burchardt (Denmark)
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