Zalgiris punish sluggish St Pat’s

St Patrick’s Athletic 1 Zalgiris 2 (Zalgiris won 4-3 on aggregate)
Zalgiris midfielder Mantas Kuklys scored a well-taken goal before providing a fine assist in a telling eight-minute spell either side of half-time as St Patrick’s Athletic came up way short of their own great expectations to bow tamely out of the Europa League last night.

The runaway Lithuanian league leaders will now meet Armenian side FC Pyunik in the second round as St Pat’s proud run of 11 games unbeaten in Europe in Inchicore was brought to a somewhat unexpected end.

Trailing 2-0 from early in the second half, St Pat’s rallied late on following a Killian Brennan penalty. But in truth Liam Buckley’s side played nothing near as well as they did in the first leg when taking home a 2-2 draw from Vilnius and can have few complaints.

Both sides kept faith with their starting teams from last week as St Pat’s continued where they left off, initially at least, passing the ball well and unsettling a nervous-looking Zalgiris defence.

But the danger signs were there and St Pat’s had a let-off on 39 minutes when Forrester’s back pass fell short. Ramunas Radavicius got in to knock the ball past the out-rushing Brendan Clarke, but overran it near the end-line and his cross was cleared.

That merely raised the visitors’ confidence, though, and a diagonal free kick from distance from Kuklys missed everyone in the box to bounce up and force Clarke, at full stretch, to push the ball round a post for a corner.

Zalgiris then they took the lead in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the half, Kuklys finding the bottom right-hand corner of Clarke’s net with a well-struck right foot drive from the edge of the area.

Kuklys was involved again as Zalgiris doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half, as his low cross was tapped home by Polish international Kamil Bilinski.

It wasn’t until an 85th minute trip by Zalgiris captain Andrius Skerla on Anto Flood inside the area brought any hope as Brennan duly blasted home the resulting penalty, but it wasn’t enough for the hosts.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Russell (Kelly, 86), Bolger, Brennan; Byrne (Price, 59), Fagan, Forrester (Flood, 59).

ZALGIRIS: Vitkauskas; Vaitkunas, Skerla, Peric, Silenas (Janusauskas, 67); Zulpa; Svrljuga, Kuklys, Komolov (Zagurskas, 78), Radavicius (Leliuga, h/t); Bilinski.

Referee: Igor Pristovnik (Croatia).


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