A clinical Miroslav Radovic bagged a brace at Tallaght Stadium as Polish giants Legia Warsaw finished with a flourish to inflict a 5-0 defeat (6-1 on aggregate) on St Patrick's Athletic in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.
Radovic opened the scoring in the 26th minute, but St Pat's kept the deficit at one goal until the 69th minute.
However, a flurry of late goals from Michal Zyro, Radovic, Marek Saganowski and an unfortunate Conan Byrne own goal ensured Legia Warsaw advanced to the next round where they will face Celtic.
The evening began with the Dublin venue bathed in warm sunshine and found both sets of supporters in fine voice.
Saints supremo Liam Buckley was forced into a late change immediately before kick-off when Derek Foran was drafted in to replace Ken Oman, who sustained an injury during the warm-up.
Killian Brennan had recovered from a knee injury in time to take up his role in the St Pat’s midfield as Buckley’s charges attempted to secure a lucrative tie in the next round against the Bhoys.
Two early shots on target, albeit efforts that did not overly trouble netminder Dusan Kuciak, advertised Brennan’s well-being on one of the biggest nights in the club’s recent history.
However, it was evident from an early stage in the encounter that the Polish champions were playing with a greater urgency than in the first leg, and their higher tempo and notably increased fitness levels were to tell in the latter stages.
A sloppy pass from captain Ger O’Brien in the 10th minute gifted Ondrej Duda Legia’s first real opportunity, but St Pat’s custodian Brendan Clarke smothered the Slovak’s shot.
Minutes later, Michal Kucharczyk had the ball in the St Pat’s net, but his effort was ruled out by Swedish referee Andreas Ekberg for offside.
A sustained period of Legia pressure yielded the opening goal in the 26th minute when Radovic latched on to a sublime pass from Zyro and kept his composure to beat Clarke in the St Pat’s goal.
The home side’s initial response was encouraging. Keith Fahey, whose touch and distribution was vastly superior to that of his colleagues, showed another facet of his game to win the ball tenaciously in midfield and then instigate a counter-attack. Having completed a one-two with Brennan, he unleashed a shot which Kuciak’s fingertips diverted just wide of the post.
The restart saw Mark Quigley introduced into the fray for the ineffectual Chris Forrester.
Fahey continued where he had left off in the first half, and was on hand to pick up a cleared Conan Byrne corner. There was plenty of pace in the Republic of Ireland international’s strike, but his effort flew to the left of the upright and wide.
It wasn’t long before Legia started to boss matters all over the park, with Radovic, Zyro and Tomasz Brzyski all going close for the well-supported visitors.
The Polish side finally registered their second goal of the night in the 69th minute when Kucharczyk ghosted by substitute Sean Hoare and cut the ball back for the unmarked Zyro to slot home.
As the Saints grew visibly weary, the floodgates opened.
Clarke temporarily prevented a third Legia goal when he tipped over Zyro’s piledriver following some neat play with Duda, but the duo combined again to find the deadly Radovic as he bagged his second goal of the night and his third of the tie in the 82nd minute.
Duda made way for Marek Sagnowski in the 84th minute, and the substitute was on the field for only three minutes when he fired home a fourth for Legia from close range following an industrious run by Brzyski.
Byrne’s night ended in ignominy as his headed own goal in stoppage-time made in 5-0 on the night as the earlier prospect of a glamour tie with Celtic faded to a distant memory.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Clarke, O’Brien (Hoare 62), Foran, Browne (Lynch 73), Bermingham, Fahey, Bolger, Byrne, Brennan, Forrester (Quigley, h-t), Fagan
Legia Warsaw: Kuciak, Broz, Rzezniczak, Astiz, Brzyski, Vrdoljak, Jodlowiec, Zyro, Duda (Saganowski 84), Kucharczyk (Kosecki 84), Radovic (Piech 87)
Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden)