EUROPA LGE QUALIFIER RD 1
ST PAT’S ATH 1
AS JEUNESSE 0
By DAIRE WALSH
ST PATRICK’S Athletic will take a slender lead into the second leg of their Europa League Qualifying Round clash with AS Jeunesse Esch next Tuesday, after Christy Fagan claimed the only goal in a cagey outing with the Luxembourg outfit.
This was the Saints’ first win in Europe for almost four years, and even though they had opportunities to add to Fagan’s opener, they will be eager to accentuate the positives from this clash.
Pat’s – who were hoping to make amends for their 4-1 aggregate defeat to Skonto Riga of Latvia at the same stage last season – welcomed back David Cawley, Keith Treacy and star striker Fagan to their starting line-up.
Fagan was a final-quarter substitute against Dundalk last Friday, and with just ten minutes gone on the clock in Inchicore, he opened the scoring against Carlo Weis’ charges.
Jeunesse skipper Marc Oberweis turned away Darren Dennehy’s initial effort from a Conan Byrne corner, but when the centre-half placed the ball back into the danger zone, Fagan was on hand to head home from close-range.
This was Fagan’s fifth goal in European competition for Pat’s, and as a result, he is now the club’s record goalscorer at this level. This was an ideal start to the contest for the Saints, although Brendan Clarke was forced into action when Jeunesse winger Ken Corral shot from distance on 18 minutes.
However, Pat’s were the dominant team during the opening period, and from a inch-perfect Ger O’Brien cross on the right-flank nine minutes before the interval, Fagan headed narrowly past the left-hand post.
The former Bohs forward had looked odds-on to double the home team’s lead on this occasion, while Ian Bermingham was also marginally off-target when he got on the end of an enticing Billy Dennehy delivery four minutes later.
Yet, despite being in a strong position when the play resumed, Liam Buckley’s side needed to be wary of the away goal threat from their opponents/
Indeed, Jeunesse were perilously close to levelling matters 11 minutes into the second half, as centre-forward Patrick Stumpf fired over from a right-hand angle after Robin Mertinitz had flicked on Martin Ontiveros’ left-wing cross.
This was a reminder to Pat’s that Jeunesse (who finished fourth in the Luxembourg National Division last season) were not going to go down without a fight, and Mark Timlin was introduced in an attempt to freshen up the Saints attack.
The fingertips of opposition netminder Oberweis denied Cawley in the 63rd-minute, and even though Darren Dennehy finished smartly 16 minutes from time, his effort was ruled out for offside.
Yet, the Kerry native was on hand to clear a subsequent Stumpf volley off the line, and with Fagan forcing another save from the experienced Oberweis, the game was beginning to open up in the closing stages.
Last year’s EA Sports Cup winners had to settle for a one-goal advantage in the end, however, which sets things up intriguingly for the return fixture in six days’ time.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien, D Dennehy, Hoare, Bermingham; Treacy; Byrne (Timlin 60), Cawley, Kelly, B Dennehy; Fagan.
Booked: D Dennehy 25.
Scorers: Fagan 10.
AS JEUNESSE ESCH: Oberweis; Todorovic, Portier, Delgado, Emmanuel; Peters, Ontiveros (Deidda 80), Mertinitz; Corral (Sardaryan 24), Stumpf, Pinna.
Booked: Todorovic 36, Mertinitz 58, Emmanuel 82, Deidda 89.
Referee: P Orel (Czech Republic).