By Micil Glennon at Richmond Park
St Patrick’s Athletic exited the Europa League at the first hurdle after a 2-1 loss to Lithuanian side Zalgiris at a sold out Richmond Park.
The visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time and doubled their advantage just six minutes after the break.
Killian Brennan’s late penalty made for a tense final nine minutes but Zalgiris held out to progress to the second qualifying round, 4-3 on aggregate.
Both managers stuck with the same starting line-ups that fought out a 2-2 draw in Vilnius last Friday for the second leg that was played in glorious sunshine on the banks of the Camac.
Despite both sets of fans creating a lively atmosphere neither side could muster an early clear-cut chance.
Brennan wasted two frees in promising positions on the edge of the box while defender Kenny Browne went in the book on 11 minutes for a cynical pull on Kamil Bilinksi.
In between the free kicks, Chris Forrester hesitated when the ball came to his feet in the box and Zalgiris cleared the danger.
Midfielders Brennan and Forrester buzzed around and picked up plenty of ball but too often their passes were short, including a backpass from the latter that left Ramunas Radavicius one-on-one with goalkeeper Brendan Clarke.
Luckily for Forrester the Green Whites striker was pushed wide and the chance was gone.
Byrne, on the right wing, was the only real threat for Pat’s but none of his team-mates read his intentions when he sent teasing crosses into the danger zone.
And the Saints were left to rue their lack of craft in the final third when Zalgiris broke from a corner in first-half injury time.
Pavel Komolov led a breakout and set up Mantus Kukys on the edge of the box.
The midfielder picked his spot and beat Clarke low down on his right side to give the visitors an unlikely half-time lead.
Just six minutes after the break the away side doubled their lead and, again, it stemmed from Pat’s losing possession cheaply in the opposition half.
Brennan was caught flat-footed and Komolov ran direct at the Saints defence before releasing substitute Rytis Leliuga on the right flank.
His centre left Bilinski with a simple tap-in from four yards.
St Pat's manager Liam Buckley soon called Byrne, somewhat surprisingly, and Forrester ashore, bringing on striker Anto Flood and defender Aidan Price, switching to three at the back and pushing full-backs Ger O’Brien and Ian Bermingham forward.
Sensibly, the Lithuanians decided to shore up to cope with the surge and Bolger’s tame effort from an O’Brien cross was the best the Airtricity League leaders could manage in the next 30 minutes.
Flood tried valiantly to inject a bit of urgency into the attack but his sights were off when Price sent in a cross from the left.
Meanwhile, Bilinki shot wildly and Eivinas Zagurskas lobbed over as the A Lyga leaders looked to put the game to bed.
However, there was still drama to come when Flood was pulled back by Zagurskas inside the box.
Brennan hit the top corner with the resulting penalty and Pat’s had five minutes to rescue the tie.
The home fans roared their team on as the fourth official signalled four minutes of stoppage time but the Dublin side failed to create any decent chances and it was the Lithuanians who progressed to a meeting with FC Pyunik of Armenia.
It was the first time in their last five European ventures that the Saints have failed to get past round one but will now not have the distraction of Europe to take away from their domestic title bid, starting with Sligo Rovers away on Sunday.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke, Ger O'Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham, Killian Brennan, Greg Bolger, John Russell (Jake Kelly 87), Conan Byrne (Aidan Price 60), Chris Forrester (Anto Flood 60), Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Dave Ryan, Stephen Maher, Sean Gannon, Shane McFaul,.
Zalgiris Vilnius: Armantas Vitkauskas, Egidijus Vaitkunas, Andrius Skerla, Luka Peric, Vaidotas Silenas (Paulius Janusauskas 67), Arturas Zulpa, Andro Svrljuga, Mantas Kuklys, Pavel Komolov (Eivinas Zagurskas 78), Ramunas Radavicius (Rytis Leliuga h/t), Kamil Bilinski.
Subs not used: Aivaras Brazinskas, Georgas Freidgeimas, Algis Jankauskas, Andrius Velicka.
Referee: Igor Pristovnik (Croatia)