Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Pole axed
Concession of soft goals ends Cork City's Champions League hopes
John Caulfield’s side suffered a 3-0 second-leg defeat away to Polish champions Legia Warsaw this evening.

Graham Cummins wins a header Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO Cork City's Graham Cummins wins a header. Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO / INPHO

Legia Warsaw 3
Cork City 0

(Legia Warsaw win 4-0 on aggregate)

– Paul Dollery reports from the Polish Army Stadium

CORK CITY THIS evening became the third Irish club in five seasons to be eliminated from the Champions League by Legia Warsaw.

Suffering a fate that was already familiar to St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk, City were unable to get the better of a club who have won five of the last six Polish titles.

The 3-0 scoreline hints at a comfortable night’s work for Legia in the second leg of this first-round qualifier at a half-empty Polish Army Stadium. While they were certainly the better side, it was a mostly commendable display by the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions, which was blighted by the concession of two particularly soft goals.

Already trailing 1-0 from last week’s first leg at Turner’s Cross, City fell further behind in the 27th minute to a Jose Kante goal that goalkeeper Peter Cherrie might not enjoy watching again. A 73rd-minute Miroslav Radovic penalty put the Polish champions out of sight. New signing Carlitos capped the victory with his first goal for Legia.

Legia will now advance to a meeting with Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) or HŠK Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina). The consolation prize for City is a place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

Legia fans during the game Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO A crowd of 14,576 watched the game at the Polish Army Stadium. Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO / INPHO

The Leesiders were forced into two changes from the first leg. Owing to injuries to Conor McCarthy and Gearoid Morrissey, Steven Beattie and Graham Cummins were named in John Caulfield’s starting line-up. Cherrie retained his place in goal as first-choice stopper Mark McNulty failed to shake off an ankle injury.

Legia also made a couple of adjustments from the game at Turner’s Cross. Kasper Hamalainen and — somewhat surprisingly — Sebastian Szymanski were left out, with Hungarian international Dominik Nagy and veteran club captain Radovic drafted into what certainly couldn’t be described as a full-strength side.

As expected, Legia dominated possession from the outset. However, Cork City were by no means under constant pressure at the back in the opening stages. Kante and Michal Kucharczyk narrowly missed the target with early opportunities for the hosts, before Cherrie saved comfortably from Radovic when Legia had their first attempt on target in the 16th minute.

City’s lone striker Cummins worked tirelessly as the visitors sought to pose problems for Legia on the break, while Barry McNamee sent in a couple of promising dead-ball deliveries during the first quarter which ultimately came to nothing.

Although John Caulfield would have been satisfied with his side’s start, their task became even more difficult after 27 minutes. When Mateusz Wieteska sent a diagonal ball into City’s box, Cherrie rushed out in an attempt to gather it ahead of Cafu.

James Keohane with Inaki Astiz Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO Jimmy Keohane of Cork City beats Legia Warsaw's Inaki Astiz to a header. Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO / INPHO

It proved to be a costly decision by the Scottish goalkeeper. The Portuguese midfielder, who’s on loan from French club Metz, was able to send the ball back for Kante, who knocked it into an empty net to score his first goal for his new club following his summer transfer from Wisla Plock.

City responded positively to that setback, as Karl Sheppard saw a spectacular long-range effort sail just over the crossbar. He was involved again shortly before half-time, glancing a header into Legia’s six-yard box from Beattie’s throw-in. It was a nervy moment for the home side but William Remy was able to clear the danger.

Just 20 seconds into the second half, Sheppard was gifted a goalscoring opportunity following a mix-up in the Legia rearguard. But City’s energetic right-winger was unable to capitalise, producing a tame effort that drifted well wide.

Moments later, Wieteska brought a good save out of Cherrie when he got his head on Krzysztof Maczynski’s corner. Cherrie then had to be alert to deny Kante after Damien Delaney’s header back to his goalkeeper came up short.

Legia’s second goal of the game arrived in the 73rd minute, but it came at a stage when City were beginning to pick holes in the opposition’s defence. Cummins got his head to good deliveries from Jimmy Keohane and Barry McNamee, before McNamee and Keohane combined well to force Inaki Astiz to concede a corner.

But the visitors’ momentum was halted when miscommunication between Garry Buckley and Conor McCormack in midfield handed possession to Cafu. He played in Radovic, who was fouled in the box by McCormack. The Legia skipper converted the penalty himself to put the final nail in the coffin of City’s prospects of a comeback.

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Miroslav Radovic scores his sides second goal from the penalty spot Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO Miroslav Radovic scores from the penalty spot. Tomasz Jastrzebowski / INPHO / INPHO

Cherrie then made a point-blank save from Marko Vesovic as Legia looked to increase their lead. At the other end, McNamee headed over Arkadius Malarz’s crossbar after being picked out at the far post by Sheppard.

With 11 minutes left on the clock, John Caulfield made a triple substitution which included the introductions of striker Josh O’Hanlon and playmaker Kieran Sadlier. However, by then it was too late for the changes to impact the outcome.

The strength in depth at Legia’s disposal was evidenced by their three second-half substitutions. As well as introducing Czech defender Adam Hlousek and Croatian midfielder Domagoj Antolic, both senior internationals, Dean Klafuric gave a run to Spanish striker Carlitos, who was the leading goalscorer in Poland last season.

The 28-year-old, having recently joined from Wisla Krakow, rounded off the scoring by beating Cherrie from close range with 90 seconds of normal time remaining after the ball was squared by Radovic.

LEGIA WARSAW: Arkadiusz Malarz; William Remy, Inaki Astiz, Mateusz Wieteska (Domagoj Antolic, 69); Marko Vesovic, Cafu, Krzysztof Maczynski, Dominik Nagy, Michal Kucharczyk (Adam Hlousek, HT); Miroslav Radovic, Jose Kante (Carlitos, 64).

CORK CITY: Peter Cherrie; Steven Beattie (Danny Kane, 79), Damien Delaney, Sean McLoughlin, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack, Garry Buckley (Kieran Sadlier, 79); Karl Sheppard, Jimmy Keohane, Barry McNamee; Graham Cummins (Josh O’Hanlon, 79).

Referee: Kai Erik Steen (Norway)

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