by Henry O’Donovan.
Cork City eased into the second qualifying round of the Europa League with a 4-2 win against Levadia Tallinn at Turners Cross on Thursday night. A goal from Karl Sheppard and a hat trick from Sean Maguire saw the Leesiders through with a 6-2 aggregate victory.
The home side looked to press forward right from the start and Kevin O’Connor went close with a shot from distance four minutes in. In the 12th minute Garry Buckley came within inches of opening the scoring as his back post header looped over Sergei Lepmets, only to hit the opposite upright.
For all of City’s attacking play it was the visitors who drew first blood. On the quarter hour mark Evgenii Kobzar cut inside from the left wing and slotted the ball past Mark McNulty in the City goal.
City looked to hit back quickly and nearly equalised in the 20th minute. Ryan Delaney met O’Connor’s corner with a glancing header that was narrowly wide of the mark.
John Caulfield’s men did level the game in the 28th minute. Greg Bolger’s in-swinging free kick from the left was met by the stooping head of Karl Sheppard, who got just enough on the ball to guide it home.
Levadia Tallinn regained the lead in controversial circumstances three minutes after the half hour mark. A long ball forward to Kobzar saw the Tallinn man appear to control more with his arm than his chest as he took the ball down. He did well, however, to beat two City players down the left and whip the ball into the box. Nikita Andreev met the ball with his head and used the pace on the ball to steer the ball into the net.
City looked to hit back but were unable to before half time.
The home side did make the game all square in the opening minute after the interval. Sheppard found space down the right and put in a low cross, which Sean Maguire deftly back heeled into the goal.
City maintained the pressure, with both Sheppard and Jimmy Keohane having shots from distance go wide in the quarter hour after the goal.
The home side were in cruise control after the hour mark, happy to let the Estonian team have the ball in midfield and putting in tackles as soon as the visitors looked to move into the final third.
John Caulfield’s men added a third goal five minutes from the end. A long ball forward found the head of substitute Achille Campion, who headed down to the feet of Maguire. Maguire took the ball around the Tallinn centre backs and shot at goal. The ball took a heavy deflection off one of the defenders but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball from the net.
Maguire got his hat trick in the final minute of regulation time, heading home a Griffin corner.
4-2 on the night and 6-2 on aggregate, The Leesiders will no doubt be confident going into the next round of Europa League Qualifying.
Referee: Gunnar Jarl Jónsson.