Legia Warsaw – Cork City
|17/07/18||20:00||UEFA Champions League||2018||14576||TVP1|
By Denis Hurley for the Evening Echo
A three-goal defeat on the night, and four overall, was rough luck on Cork City at the Legia Warsaw Municipal Stadium last night.
With a 1-0 lead from last week’s first leg at Turner’s Cross, the home side were overwhelming favourites to advance to the Champions League second qualifying round and, before 14,576 people, they did that.
A goal just before the half-hour from striker José Kanté punctured City hope after a good containment job up until then. While John Caulfield’s side looked to be tiring midway through the second half, they managed to force themselves into one final flurry but when that yielded nothing, Legia set about closing out the game and the tie.
The lead was doubled in the 73rd minute with a penalty from captain Miroslav Radovic after he had himself been fouled and then, in the 89th minute, sub Carlitos put a slightly unfair slant on the scoreline.
Overturning the 1-0 first-leg deficit was always going to be a tall order for John Caulfield’s side against a side which has won five of the last six Polish titles and which competed in the group stages of the competition two seasons ago.
With Conor McCarthy and Gearóid Morrissey ruled out after picking up hamstring and groin injuries respectively in last week’s first leg, Steven Beattie came in at right-back with Graham Cummins up front as Karl Sheppard dropped to the wing and Garry Buckley partnered Conor McCormack in midfield. Goalkeeper Mark McNulty remained sideline with an ankle injury so Peter Cherrie continued to deputise.
City’s early gameplan was to keep things tight and make the most of what attacking scraps were able to be created at the other end. They almost managed to force an opening within five minutes of the game starting as Conor McCormack won a good ball in midfield and sought to play in Jimmy Keohane, but Legia goalkeeper Arkadiuz Malarz was alert to the danger and cleared.
As expected, that was the exception to the general flow of play and Kanté gave an early preview of his capabilities as he flashed a near-post volley over from Krzysztof Maczynski’s corner while last week’s matchwinner Michal Kucharczyk was just wide after Beattie had blocked his initial effort.
Jimmy Keohane also made a good stop when Maczynski attempted a long-range effort and, by and large, the visitors were doing well in their attempts to repel Legia, with Cherrie saving from Radovic when a chance of a shot did materialise on 16.
However, the opening goal on 28 halted any City progress. With defender Mateusz Wieteska lofting a good ball to the unmarked Cafu on the right of the penalty area, Cherrie tried to make himself big but the midfielder cleverly pulled back for Kanté to sidefoot home.
City responded positively. Sheppard went close with a shot from the distance in the immediate aftermath and Keohane was unlucky not to reach a Sheppard flick-on from a Beattie throw. It remained 1-0 at half-time, though on the resumption Sheppard had another opportunity but couldn’t get a clean connection and the ball went wide.
Wieteska drew a good save from Cherrie following a corner and then the goalkeeper dived well at the feet of Kanté when Legia forced a turnover close to goal following a loose Damien Delaney header.
City looked to be flagging, but they dug deep and came with another surge, albeit one that was in vain as Cummins headed a Keohane free kick wide and then just couldn’t reach a McNamee ball while Inaki Astiz intercepted another intended pass from the midfielder to the striker.
The second goal came when Garry Buckley’s pass was pounced upon by Cafu, who carried the ball towards goal and played in his captain Radovic, who was fouled by his opposite number McCormack just inside the corner of the area for a penalty.
Radovic took the spot-kick himself, firing to the top corner with no chance for Cherrie and it would have been 3-0 in the immediate aftermath but for a fine save to deny Marko Vesovic.
A third did arrive right at the end as Carlitos profited from good work by Maczynski and Radovic to curl home. Harsh on City, but the real damage had been done before that.
|Kai Erik Steen|