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Bohemians' brilliant European run comes to an end after PAOK prevail in Greece

First-half goals from Stefan Schwab and Diego Biseswar ultimately downed the Gypsies.

Bohs certainly died with their boots on tonight.
Bohs certainly died with their boots on tonight.
Image: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

PAOK 2

Bohemian FC 0

(PAOK win 3-2 on aggregate)

BOHEMIANS BOWED OUT of Europe in Greece tonight, as PAOK showed their quality to run out 2-0 winners in their Europa Conference League qualifier second-leg.

First-half goals from Stefan Schwab and the excellent Diego Biseswar ultimately downed the Gypsies, though Keith Long will take plenty of positives from their battling performance on the road — and their memorable European adventure in general.

Last week’s historic 2-1 win at the Aviva Stadium put Bohs in a good position to continue their brilliant run, needing a draw against the intimidating Greek side to progress to the playoff round of the inaugural competition.

It’s worth remembering PAOK are ranked 77th by Uefa — sandwiched neatly between Premier League clubs West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Burnley and Wolves; and a strong Spanish contingent below them — are full of internationals, and have reached the group stages of the Europa League in eight of the last 11 seasons. Bohs, meanwhile, are way down the rankings in 380th.

After a dramatic build-up owing to Covid-19 restrictions, Uefa guidelines, warnings from Greek police and a PAOK ultras’ protest over the need for proof of vaccination to gain entry, the focus was all on the football at Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki. Regardless of all of that, the home crowd made plenty of noise.

The 34-degree dead heat was certainly a challenge for Long’s Bohs, wearing their away blue strip on a big night for League of Ireland sides in Europe.

paok-fans-light-a-flare-in-the-stands-at-the-game A general view of PAOK fans. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

With the game just four minutes old, they were dealt a hammer blow as Schwab sent PAOK into an early lead. It all came from a corner; Biseswar’s delivery off the back of the set-piece finding the uncontested Austrian midfielder, who headed past James Talbot.

The hosts capitalised on their bright start and dominated proceedings early on, continuing to threaten Talbot’s goal and put Bohs under the cosh.

The Dalymount Park outfit soon settled though; two similar chances falling to Georgie Kelly after deliveries into the box from Liam Burt and Dawson Devoy respectively, but goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis cleared his lines on both occassions.

The closest they went in the first half was through Keith Buckley after an excellent team move down the left involving Kelly and Ali Coote — last week’s goalscoring hero — but the skipper’s effort whisped past the far post.

While Biseswar pulled the strings for PAOK, Bohs looked to be getting to grips with matters as they stamped their authority on the game. But disaster struck just after the first water break, with Long’s side caught sleeping.

A disappointing goal to concede from a defensive perspective, Sérgio Oliviera got on the end of a loose ball around the middle before slipping a pass to Biseswar, who sliced through the middle to go one-on-one, and coolly slotted home in the 28th minute.

dawson-devoy-with-stefan-schwab Dawson Devoy with goalscorer Stefan Schwab of PAOK. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

Things very almost went from bad to worse for the travelling party six minutes later, after Omar El Kaddouri’s shot rattled the crossbar. Talbot did well to get his fingertips to the ball, but after rickocheting off the woodwork, all involved with PAOK thought it was over the line. A backroom team member, in fact, was shown yellow for his protests.

That same man, El Kaddouri, again, nearly made it 3-0 as half-time approached, missing a sitter as Bohs breathed a sigh of relief.

To their credit, the Gypsies restarted brightly, with chances at either end early in the second half. Coote, and later Kelly, came closest for Bohs — the latter’s header veering wide after a stunning Andy Lyons cross around the hour-mark, before André Vierinha blazed over at the other end.

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Needing a goal to take this match to extra-time, Bohs enjoyed lengthy spells of possession and while they threatened at times, they struggled to make that vital breakthrough.

PAOK, meanwhile, looked to finish with a flourish. Only for disallowed offside goal in the 78th minute and more Talbot heroics, it would have been game, set, match much sooner.

Bohemians battled gamely down the home straight, throwing the kitchen sink at it while injected by fresh legs. Keith Ward probably should have sent the game to extra-time in the dying minutes, after tremendous work from Stephen Mallon down the left-hand side, but Ward’s connection with the ball was poor.

At the end of the day, though, PAOK saw this one out comfortably, and march on after a convincing second-leg victory over Bohs, who died with their boots on.

PAOK: Paschalakis; Rodrigo, Varela, Michailidis, Vierinha; Zivkovic, Kurtic (Esiti ’73), Biseswar (Murg ’85), Schwab, El Kaddouri; Oliviera (Swiderski ’73)

Bohemians: Talbot; Lyons (Feely ’86), Cornwall, Finnerty, Breslin; Devoy (Mallon ’87), Buckley, Coote (Ward ’62), Tierney (Levingston ’78), Burt; Kelly.

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