AS Roma 1 Cork City 0 (Roma win 4-1 on aggregate): As David Coffey, who spent the previous five minutes down injured, risked life and limb to fling himself across goal and deny Emanuele Spinozzi Roma’s second in the dying embers of yesterday’s game, he summed up Cork City Under 19s’ admirable European campaign.
Having gone toe-to-toe against the reigning Italian champions for 180 minutes, in the end a missed penalty and two late goals in the first leg ultimately cost the Rebel Army, who could even have grabbed an equaliser late on in Rome had Denzel Fernandez’s volley dipped under the crossbar.
“The performance from every single one of them was exceptional, not just tonight but in the home leg as well,” said a disappointed but proud City boss Stephen Bermingham afterwards.
Roma’s last opponents in the competition APOEL Nicosia were defeated 6-0 in the Italian capital. But despite Sidy Keba Coly’s 61st-minute goal securing the tie, City’s heads never dropped, and there was no prospect of a similar avalanche.
However Coly should have opened the scoring after only six minutes having been teed up by Eduardo Soleri following his fine run, but the Senegal winger was denied by Coffey’s outstretched foot, before Soleri himself touched wide at the near post from Filippo Franchi’s cross.
The hosts dominated the opening exchanges, with Soleri’s header kissing the top of the crossbar from a corner soon after.
Kevin Taylor’s free-kick was beaten away by Lorenzo Crisanto in City’s sole riposte.
The visitors’ defence held steadfast however, and when Crisanto couldn’t hold onto Aaron Drinan’s low effort at the near post, the custodian had to be right on the mark to deny Alec Byrne the follow-up.
An opportunity missed; and as the Leesiders finally enjoyed some territory on the resumption of play, Cian Coleman fired a shot just over Crisanto’s crossbar.
Roma, however, were beginning to establish a countering game of their own, and after Franchi was allowed too much space to cross, Coly finished at the second attempt, following Coffey’s fine original stop, to all but end any fading hopes of Leeside qualification.
Bermingham reflected: “We kept our heads up, stayed disciplined, played good football, and I think every single one of them were a credit to their club. I think a one-all draw would have been a fair result given the chances we had, but to match one of the best youth academies in the world over two legs is exceptional.”
Maybe not the deserved result on the night, but City deserve all the plaudits that will come their way.
D Coffey; P Phillips, C McCarthy, A O’Sullivan, K Taylor (G Manley 86); C Coleman, A Byrne; D Fernandez (W Armstrong 84), D O’Riordan (R Welch 82), C Ogbene; A Drinan.
L Crisanto; E De Santis, L Grossi (N Tofanari 88), R Marchizza (S Ciavattini 73), L Pellegrini; A Bordin (A Marcucci 53), D Frattesi, E Spinozzi; F Franchi, E Soleri, S Keba Coly.
Z Proske (CZE)
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