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Pat's European campaign on the brink after 2-0 defeat to Swedish side Norrkoping

An own goal by Lee Desmond compounded a bad night for Pat’s, in which they were largely outclassed.

Filip Dagerstal and Gary Shaw.
Filip Dagerstal and Gary Shaw.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 0

IFK Norrkoping 2

THE QUIRK OF their qualification meant Pat’s anticipation of this season’s Europa League campaign was cut short and on the basis of tonight, their participation will suffer a similar fate.

They were bettered technically and physically by Swedish side Norrkoping at Richmond Park, and for all their retaliatory grit, a grevious lapse in concentration and an own goal consigned them to a 2-0 first leg defeat. 

Pat’s were level at the break, but soon after it Ciaran Kelly gifted possession away to allow Simon Thern score. This was compounded with five minutes remaining, when Lee Desmond directed a header into his own net. 

Although Pat’s were ultimately outclassed, Norrkoping started relatively poorly. 

The anchor of the their midfield, Gudmundr Thórarinsson, is a burgeoning musician in his native Iceland having competed in their Eurovision qualification competition last year, and will have recognised much of the first half as a kind of ragged symphony. 

There were some moments of coherence from either midfield, but these were inevitably ruined with a series of false notes: play consistently breaking down with heavy touches and misplaced passes.

Amid all of the frayed, clumsy play, Richmond Park coalesced into a chorus of fury at the 15-minute mark, when referee Lionel Tschudi was unmoved by a pretty blatant nudge on Gary Shaw in the penalty area by Alexander Fransson. 

IFK Norrkoping fans during the game Norrkoping fans at Richmond Park. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Norrkoping captain had left a backpass to Isak Pettersson much too short, and as the Pat’s striker stole in ahead of him, panicked and shunted him over. 

Norrkoping were much more assured on the ball, but their exchange rate for possessions to chances created in the first half was pitiful.

What chances they did have in the first half largely fell to Jordan Larsson, who met them with the inhibition of a player struggling in the shadow of his illustrious father, Henrik. 

His best chance was a one-on-one on the edge of the six-yard box, which he blasted directly at Brendan Clarke’s face – the Pat’s ‘keeper requiring treatment afterward for making a save that owed most to the courage needed to stand tall at point-blank range. 

Larsson’s pace threatened Pat’s, but his finishing lacked conviction.

Simon Thern – whose father Jonas had a good if less spectacular career than Larsen’s, captaining Sweden alongside stints with Rangers and Roma – zoomed around Ian Bermingham on the right wing and cut the ball back to Larsson, who prodded a feeble effort so far wide of the far post it didn’t even dribble over the end line. 

Pat’s were their usual dogged selves but desperately lacking a cutting edge up front.

Unsurprisingly, their best first-half opening came from a set-piece. With the Norrkoping defence readying themselves for a hoisted free kick into the penalty area, Jamie Lennon instead slid a pass down the wing, which Mikey Drennan volleyed narrowly wide of the far, left-hand post. 

Pat’s ended the half in dangerously last-ditch territory – dreadful defending from a hopeful ball into the penalty area forced Bermingham to throw himself at a Kasper Larsen goal bound for the net. 

Within ten minutes, last-ditch had become self-destruct. Striding out of defence, Ciaran Kelly inexplicably played a pass directly to Fransson, who found Thern on the edge of the box, to rifle a shot into the corner of the net. 

By this stage, the Swedish side had found their rhythm, and Pat’s were chasing shadows.

Pat’s were horribly profligate on the ball, wasting it one long hoik into the channel at a time.

It wasn’t until the 71st minute that they had their first effort on target – Ian Bermingham’s first-time from the edge of the box forcing Pettersson into a smart save low to his left. Norrkoping responded within a minute, however, with Larsson clipping the outside of the post from inside the box. 

By this stage, substitute Rhys McCabe had infused Pat’s with more energy, but their final pass was still painfully lacking. 

All was compounded five minutes from time.

The Pat’s defence were caught dawdling again, allowing replacement striker Holmberg too much space to slide a shot narrowly wide, via a touch from Clarke. From the resulting corner, Pat’s world fell apart as Larsen’s header was headed into his own net by Lee Desmond. 

A couple of agile Clarke saves prevented an even uglier scoreline for Pat’s, while a late, late Drennan volley bred brief hope before Pettersson pushed it away. 

Barring a miracle turnaround in Sweden, Pat’s European song will soon be sung. 

St Pat’s: Brendan Clarke; Ciaran Kelly, Lee Desmond, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham; Simon Madden, Conor Clifford (Jake Walker 82′), Jamie Lennon, Cian Coleman (Rhys McCabe 64′); Mikey Drennan, Gary Shaw (Dean Clarke 64′)

Norrkoping: Isak Pettersson; Filip Dagerstal, Kasper Larsen, Rasmus Lauritsen; Lars Gerson, Alexander Fransson, Gudmundur Thórarinsson (Sead Haksabanovic), Simon Skrabb (Egzon Binaku 85;); Jordan Larsson, Christoffer Nyman (Karl Holmberg 69′), Simon Thern 

Referee: Lionel Tschudi (Switzerland) 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from Richmond Park

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