Kevin O'Connor celebrates his goal. Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Swede Dreams

Cork City eliminate Swedish Cup holders to progress in the Europa League

A first-half goal from Kevin O’Connor gave the Leesiders a 2-1 aggregate victory against BK Hacken.

Cork City 1 (2)
BK Hacken 0 (1)

Paul Dollery reports from Turner’s Cross

KEVIN O’CONNOR’S DEFLECTED volley in the first half was enough to seal a lucrative place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League for Cork City tonight in front of a crowd of 5,336 at Turner’s Cross.

With the help of a deflection, O’Connor fired home from Greg Bolger’s free-kick to give his side a 1-0 win on the night — 2-1 on aggregate — against Swedish Cup holders BK Hacken, who could only manage a 1-1 draw with the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division side seven days ago.

City have now guaranteed themselves at least €630,000 worth of prize money from this season’s European campaign, having also defeated Linfield in the previous round.

Next up is a meeting over two legs with Belgian side Genk, who needed a penalty shootout to see off Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro) following a 2-2 draw on aggregate.

City lived dangerously for the opening quarter of tonight’s game, putting themselves under pressure on several occasions after squandering possession with some sloppy play.

The visitors had three good chances to hit the front between the 15th and 20th minutes. First John Owoeri saw a shot from a narrow angle saved by Mark McNulty.

Garry Buckley and Rasmus Schuller Garry Buckley is tackled by Rasmus Schuller. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

The City goalkeeper was on hand again moments later to deny Nasiru Mohammed, who really should have done better from close range — a major let-off for John Caulfield’s side.

Then Alan Bennett — who set a club record of 24 European appearances tonight — came to City’s rescue. Owoeri carved the Leesiders’ defence open when he played in Mohammed Abubakari, who beat McNulty, only for Bennett to clear the ball off the line.

City went ahead against the run of play at the end of the 25th minute when Kevin O’Connor won a free-kick down the left-hand side near the corner flag. Greg Bolger delivered the ball towards the edge of the box and O’Connor volleyed home with the assistance of a deflection off Emil Wahlstrom.

City needed to clear off the line again shortly after the half-hour mark, with Stephen Dooley in the right place at the right time following a header from a corner by Paulo De Oliveira.

Gearoid Morrissey went close with a half-volley for City after being teed up by Sean Maguire just before the break, and the hosts also had a penalty claim waved away when Bennett felt his header from a Dooley corner struck the hand of an opposing defender, but Portuguese referee Carlos Xistra didn’t agree.

As they upped their pursuit of an equaliser, Hacken enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the second half but they were unable to create any clear-cut chances.

Rasmus Schuller and Martin Ericsson both had efforts from distance that weren’t of any great concern to McNulty, but their best opportunity fell to Demba Savage in the 73rd minute. However, the substitute snatched at his effort and McNulty saved comfortably again.

Cork City supporters celebrate a goal There was a crowd of 5,336 at Turner's Cross. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Gearoid Morrissey had City’s best chance of the second period when he was set up by Dooley on the edge of the box, but the former Blackburn Rovers and Cambridge United midfielder’s strike produced a superb save from Hacken goalkeeper Peter Abrahamsson.

Abrahamsson went forward late on as Hacken desperately sought to keep their Europa League campaign alive, but despite having to withstand a free-kick and a corner in the fourth minute of added time, City survived to advance in what was the club’s 50th game in European competition.

They’ll travel to Belgium to take on Genk next Thursday, with the return leg scheduled for the Cross seven days later.

Cork City: Mark McNulty; Michael McSweeney, Alan Bennett, Kenny Browne, Kevin O’Connor; Greg Bolger (c); Stephen Dooley, Garry Buckley, Gearoid Morrissey (Gavan Holohan, 79), Steven Beattie; Sean Maguire (Mark O’Sullivan, 90).

BK Hacken: Peter Abrahamsson; Joel Andersson, Emil Wahlstrom, Jasmin Sudic, Kari Arkivio; Mohammed Abubakari; Nasiru Mohammed (Demba Savage, 44), Rasmus Schuller (c) (Martin Ericsson, 64), Paulo De Oliveira; Samuel Gustafson; John Owoeri (Alexander Jeremjeff, 74).

Referee: Carlos Miguel Taborda Xistra (Portugal).

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