It’s said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
And while their captain Andrius Skerla may want Zalgiris to play like St Patrick’s Athletic did in the first leg in Vilnius last week, the home side plan to continue where they left off as they look to extend their remarkable unbeaten European record at Richmond Park to 12 games tonight.
Skerla admitted at yesterday’s pre-match press conference that St Pat’s ran Zalgiris ragged in the second half as Liam Buckley’s side finished much the stronger in earning a 2-2 draw to bring back to Dublin.
“We had no problem in the first half,” said 84-times capped Lithuania international Skerla. “At the beginning of the second half, St Patrick’s started to play football. They tried to play from left to right and kept the ball. We put in a lot of effort running behind the ball. We ran twice as much as St Patrick’s and that’s why it was difficult for us towards the end of the game.
“If you want to win you need to play football. St Patrick’s showed us how we must play.”
The Dublin side’s desire is to maintain their good form in Europe, which has seen them get through two rounds in each of their last four ventures. And Ger O’Brien, who scored a stunning late equaliser in Vilnius, endorsed Skerla’s very point that the only way to play in Europe is to pass the ball well.
“We like to keep the ball and if you don’t keep the ball well in Europe then you have no chance,” said right-back O’Brien.
“It’s probably why Irish clubs in Europe years ago didn’t do well. We were probably more of a route one league and we couldn’t retain possession.
“In fairness, we’ve seen it with our own international team at the Euros; if you don’t keep the ball then you get the run-around and teams start to open you up quite easily when you are tired.
“In the second half last week we kept the ball and they were out on their feet in the last 15 minutes. I really thought we were going to get another couple of goals. So it’s important to the way we play. And if we can do that again [tonight] then I think we have a really good chance.”
With midfielder Killian Brennan reportedly fully fit following a slight groin strain picked up in the first leg, St Pat’s will be at full strength.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC (probable): Clarke; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Russell, Bolger, Brennan; Byrne, Fagan, Forrester.
ZALGIRIS (probable): Vitkauskas; Vaitkunas, Skerla, Peric, Silenas; Zulpa; Svrljuga, Kuklys, Komolov, Zagurskas; Bilinski.
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