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Saints left to rue missed chances
02 Jul 2015 19:07
Skonto Riga 2-1 St Patrick's Athletic
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St Patrick’s Athletic claimed an away goal but were left to rue several missed opportunities as they went down 2-1 to Skonto Riga in their Europa League first-round qualifier, first-leg encounter in Latvia.
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It was a tentative start for the visitors and some early sloppy defending gifted Skonto Riga the first chance of the game. Vladislavs Gutkovskis was afforded a free header but he could only direct it into the arms of Brendan Clarke.
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St Pat’s grew into the game, however, and Chris Forrester and Aaron Greene started to take control in midfield, linking up well with Christy Fagan up front - though the final ball at that stage was lacking.
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The warning signs were there for Skonto as the Saints mixed up attacks down the flanks with angled balls from midfield over the back four for Fagan to chase after and on 21 minutes they made the break through.
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This time it was Greene who did the running, getting on the end of Forrester’s cross-field pass, and taking the ball down in the left of the Skonto penalty area. The Skonto defence stood off Greene, allowing him to let the ball roll across his body before he placed the ball inside the far right post with a great left-footed volley.
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Ten minutes later, the visitors really should have doubled their lead. A late tackle from Edgars Jermolajevs on Killian Breenan inside the Skonto half saw the defender booked and Brennan sent in a teasing delivery that was met by the unmarked Sean Hoare but he somehow contrived to head wide.
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St Pat’s were turning the screw but spurned another golden chance as Fagan was unable to find a way past Andrejs Pavlovs in the Skonto goal in a one-on-one after another well delivered free-kick.
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On 38 minutes, Liam Buckley’s side were made to pay for their wastefulness.
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For the first time since taking the lead the Pat’s defence went to sleep with three defenders around him Jermolajevs managed to prod the ball back to Arturs Karasausks who unleashed a rocket, powering the ball into the right corner giving Clarke no chance.
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The visitors used the half-time break to regroup and looked lively in the early stages of the second half. Greene went close with a header before Forrester had a great chance to put his side back in front but he scuffed his shot after a sweeping counter-attack.
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Skonto began to take control after that, however, and the hot conditions appeared to take their toll on St Pat’s, who were losing their shape in midfield.
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Greg Bolger and James Chambers were both booked in quick succession and that played a part in Skonto's second goal on 65 minutes as Chambers, seemingly with that yellow card on his mind, pulled out of a tackle in midfield as the hosts broke forward.
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Kovalas then left Hoare on the ground before pulling the ball back to Karasausks, whose attempted cross was blocked by the hand of Kenny Browne. But while some Skonto players were appealing, the ball fell to Gutkovskis, who fired an angled shot past Clarke and to the back of the net.
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Ten minutes later and St Pat’s were fortunate to get away with more lax defending as Browne tried to play the ball out from the back only to give it to Kovalovs. The Skonto midfield slid the ball through for Gutkovskis but his shot from the edge of the box went just the wrong side of the left upright.
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St Pat’s managed to regroup and push forward in search of an equaliser in the closing minutes but were unable to fashion any clear-cut chances and must now beat Skonto in Inchicore if they are to progress.
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