Sublimely taken goals from Conan Byrne and Ger O’Brien provided St. Patrick’s Athletic with another thrilling 2-2 away day in Europe as they twice came from beyond to stun Žalgiris in Vilnius.
Liam Buckley’s side were never overawed by the Lithuanian league leaders despite giving away a bad early goal.
Byrne deservedly levelled matters early in the second half in St. Patrick’s best spell of the game.
Žalgiris responded with Luka Peric putting them back in front on 70 minutes.
But a brilliant second equaliser from right-back Ger O’Brien, who turned 29 on Tuesday, on 83 minutes gave St. Patrick’s a fully merited draw.
In a dramatic finale, the floodlights went out deep in stoppage time, but the Slovenian referee blew it up seconds later.
St. Patrick’s settled well on the all-weather surface and had the first real sniff on four minutes with Žalgiris skipper Andrius Skerla having to make a timely tackle in the box to take the ball of Christy Fagan’s toe after good approach play from Chris Forrester, John Russell and Ian Bermingham.
Žalgiris looked to have targeted Killian Brennan with Arturas Zulpa fouling the St. Patrick’s schemer three times early on before finally being booked.
Brendan Clarke was the first keeper in action to comfortably thwart a Žalgiris attack on 11 minutes when Mantas Kuklys worked a one-two with Pavel Komolov to open up St. Patrick’s.
The impressive Komolov then punished poor defending to give Žalgiris a 22nd minute lead.
St. Patrick’s switched off from Vaitotas Silenas’s quick throw on the left which put Kamil Bilinski free to pick out Komolov in the box. And the midfielder was given too time and space to take a couple of touches before blasting to the roof of the net, with the help of a slight deflection off Kenny Bowne.
That rattled St. Patrick’s a little, but they soon responded and should have been level on 33 minutes.
Fagan allowed John Russell’s diagonal ball to run through for the unmarked Byrne coming in off the right flank.
Byrne might have done a bit better then driving his shot hard and low at keeper Armantas Vitkauskas who put the ball out for a corner off his knee.
That lifted St. Patrick’s with skipper Conor kenna appealing in vain for a penalty when he looked to have been pulled down by Skerla in the box as they went for a Byrne free-kick.
Enjoying a good deal of the ball in the early exchanges of the second half, it cam as no surprise when St. Pat’s levelled on 55 minutes.
Kenna won a header which Greg Bolger controlled to play a sublime ball through for the run of Byrne.
And Byrne made amends for wasting his first half chance to lob Vitkauskas, who’d raced off his line.
Unsettled, Žalgiris almost conceded a second six minutes later when Bolger forced a parry save at full stretch from Vitkauskas from 25 yards.
But Žalgiris found a way back to regain the lead on 70 minutes.
Clarke made a fine one-handed save from Andro Svrljuga’s header from a Mantas Kuklys cross. But Luka Peric was lurking to side foot home the loose ball.
St. Pat’s didn’t lie down and hit back with a glorious second equaliser on 83 minutes.
Substitute Shane McFaul laid the ball off for the run of O’Brien who found the top corner with a rising right-foot shot on the run.
Žalgiris: Vitkauskas; Vaitkunas, Skerla, Peric, Silenas; Zulpa (Janusauskas, 62); Svrljuga, Kuklys, Komolov (Gerc, 83), Radavicius (Velicka, 60); Bilinski.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Clarke; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Russell, Bolger, Brennan (McFaul, 85); Byrne, Fagan (Hughes, 88), Forrester.
Referee: Mitja Zganec (Slovenia).