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All to play for in Cork next week as City suffer narrow defeat in Belgium

John Caulfield’s men lost 1-0 to KRC Genk in their Europa League first leg tonight in Belgium.

Genk players celebrate after their first-half goal.
Genk players celebrate after their first-half goal.
Image: Jeffrey Gaens/INPHO

KRC Genk 1
Cork City 0

– Paul Dollery reports from the Luminus Arena, Genk

CORK CITY WILL need to come from behind at Turner’s Cross in seven days’ time after they suffered a 1-0 defeat to KRC Genk in front of a crowd of 7,765 at the Luminus Arena in Belgium this evening.

City turned in a performance to be proud of but it wasn’t enough to hold the hosts scoreless, with Leon Bailey’s 30th-minute strike the difference between the teams in the first leg of this Europa League third-round qualifier.

John Caulfield would have been delighted with his side’s performance for the first half-hour of this game. Despite being 11/1 underdogs to win tonight over 90 minutes, City were confident in possession and by no means looked out of their depth.

They created some decent chances too. Steven Beattie went close for the visitors when his strike from the right forced a good save from Genk goalkeeper Marco Bizot, and Sean Maguire possibly could have done better a couple of minutes later when he was unable to get his header on target from Kevin O’Connor’s corner.

City frustrated Genk in the early stages, although the hosts did threaten too. Alejandro Pozuelo headed wide from a Thomas Buffel cross in the seventh minute, while Greek international Nikolas Karelis was off target with efforts in the 10th and 26th minutes.

Mark McNulty with Sebastien Dewaest Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty claims a cross. Source: Jeffrey Gaens/INPHO

However, a goal did arrive for Genk — slightly against the run of play — in the 30th minute when they punished City for a lapse in concentration. A mix-up down City’s right between Michael McSweeney and Sean Maguire gifted possession to Pozuelo.

The former Swansea City midfielder passed to Karelis, who then played in Leon Bailey, before the 18-year-old Jamaican provided an emphatic finish from close range.

Genk almost doubled their advantage six minutes later and again Pozuelo was at the heart of it. The Spaniard picked out Ally Samatta with a free-kick from wide on the right and a volley from the Tanzanian international brought a good save out of Mark McNulty.

Bailey got into a similarly dangerous position again in the 39th minute but this time McNulty saved. Cork had their opportunities to level the game just before the break, but Kevin O’Connor’s deflected shot was saved and Steven Beattie fired over after Bizot punched a corner clear.

Thomas Buffel with Stephen Dooley and Kevin O'Connor Genk's Thomas Buffel under pressure from Cork City's Stephen Dooley. Source: Jeffrey Gaens/INPHO

City certainly weren’t settling for the 0-1 result, as evidenced by the purpose with which they approached the game after the restart. O’Connor and Stephen Dooley combined brilliantly down the left for the Leesiders, while Maguire worked tirelessly up front, as did Steven Beattie on the right, and they kept Genk under pressure throughout the night.

Maguire put the ball just over the crossbar from a Beattie cross on 54 minutes, O’Connor cut in from the left and forced a good save from Bizot three minutes later and Maguire had probably City’s best chance just a minute after that. However, the former Dundalk striker pulled his left-footed effort wide after getting in behind the Genk defence.

Gearoid Morrissey went agonisingly close for City with a shot from Dooley’s tee-up in the 73rd minute, but that was followed shortly afterwards by Genk’s best chance of the second half. Bailey very nearly got his second but his curled effort from the edge of the box went inches wide.

City continued to push for an equaliser while trying to ensure that they weren’t caught on break, but there was no way through for the League of Ireland side so they’ll need to score at Turner’s Cross next Thursday evening (7.45pm) to keep their Europa League campaign alive.

Cork City fans Cork City supporters at the Luminus Arena. Source: Jeffrey Gaens/INPHO

KRC Genk: Marco Bizot; Sandy Walsh, Sebastien Dewaest, Dries Wouters, Jere Uronen; Thomas Buffel, Wilfred Ndidi, Alejandro Pozuelo (Bryan Heynen, 82), Leon Bailey; Ally Samatta, Nikolas Karelis (Neeskens Kebano, 72).

Cork City: Mark McNulty; Michael McSweeney, Alan Bennett, Kenny Browne, Kevin O’Connor; Greg Bolger (c); Stephen Dooley, Garry Buckley, Gearoid Morrissey, Steven Beattie (Danny Morrissey, 83); Sean Maguire (Mark O’Sullivan, 86).

Referee: Clayton Pisani (Malta).

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Paul Dollery

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