CSKA Sofia’s Maurício Garcez celebrates scoring the first goal of the game. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Heartbreak for St Pat's as late penalty sees them dumped out of Europe

Ivan Turitsov’s spot kick sealed CSKA’s win after Harry Brockbank was penalised for a handball.

St Patrick’s Athletic 0

CSKA Sofia 2

(CSKA go through 2-1 on aggregate)

THERE WAS heartbreak for St Patrick’s Athletic tonight, as they were dumped out of the Europa Conference League at the hands of CSKA Sofia.

The Saints went down 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate to end their European interest for this season.

A powerful header from Mauricio Garcez gave the Bulgarians an early lead before Ivan Turitsov’s late penalty sealed the win after Harry Brockbank was penalised for a handball.

It was a bad-tempered game that boiled over at the final whistle with the two teams squaring up to one another amid ugly scenes, and a player sent off for both sides.

Pat’s made no changes from last week’s first leg while there were no fewer than five alterations to the visitors’ starting XI.

Menno Koch, Brayan Moreno Alvarez, Jonathan Lindseth, Georgi Yomov and Ivan Turitsov came into the team, while Hristiyan Petrov, Asen Donchev, Stanislav Shopov, Duckens Nazon and Lazar Tufedgdzic made way.

Pat’s would have gone into the match full of optimism after last week’s diligent and deserved 1-0 win in Sofia.

It was a scrappy opening in front of a fervent crowd, with misplaced passes and mistakes by CSKA frequently cheered loudly by the majority in attendance.

Yet with the exception of a small cohort of travelling fans, Tallaght was silenced in the 12th minute when out of nothing, CSKA took the lead.

It was a disappointingly soft goal from a Pat’s perspective against a side whose proficiency from set pieces had been highlighted more than once in the pre-match discussion.

Thibaut Vion’s corner from the left found the unmarked Garcez, who headed home to level the tie on aggregate. 

There was an increased sense of confidence in the visitors’ play thereafter. They dominated possession and were happy to build patiently, while Pat’s were wasteful on the rare occasions an opportunity to counter-attack presented itself.

Garcez went close to a second midway through the first half, volleying a cross inches wide before Pat’s missed a golden opportunity to equalise.

Billy King found Adam O’Reilly with an incisive through ball, but the Preston loanee’s finish was saved via the legs of goalkeeper Gustavo Busatto after the CSKA defence suddenly opened up and was left badly exposed.

Pat’s were coming more into it and causing problems – Jurgen Matthiej was booked for chopping down Anto Breslin just outside the area on the left.

Moments later, Joe Redmond’s audacious effort, which may have been an attempted cross from the right, was tipped over for a corner by Busatto.

Down the other end, the Bulgarian side threatened sporadically – Brayan Moreno Alvarez tested Joseph Anang with a side-footed effort from the edge of the area that the 22-year-old West Ham loanee was equal to.

As half-time approached, a purposeful run and pass from Barry Cotter put Adam O’Reilly through on goal, but the angle was against the 21-year-old and his finish was comfortably saved by Busatto.

As the half-time whistle sounded, the game was balanced on a knife edge, with neither side really in the ascendancy and the crowd none the wiser as to who would progress.

cska-sofia-fans-during-the-game CSKA Sofia fans during the game. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

After the break, Georgi Yomov’s low cross almost found Jonathan Lindseth, but Brockbank was alert to cut out the danger and turn it behind for a corner.

It was an otherwise lethargic start to the second half, though there was a moment of controversy 10 minutes in.

An over-zealous late challenge from Tom Grivosti left CSKA players incensed and calling for a red card, though despite their vociferous protests, the defender was let away with a yellow.

It was an increasingly tense affair, with Barry Cotter going down in the area following an off-the-ball incident, and the referee ignoring Pat’s protests.

As the second half wore on, both sides made reinforcements, with last week’s matchwinner Serge Atakayi among those introduced.

Breslin missed a good chance, failing to connect properly with an Adam O’Reilly cross as Pat’s searched for a goal to win the tie.

They were desperately close moments later. Forrester played through Atakayi, whose shot was saved, and O’Reilly then clipped the rebound wide.

It was a disaster for Pat’s shortly thereafter. Brockbank was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area as Garcez attempted to take the ball past him.

Turitsov then stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from his spot-kick.

Pat’s almost responded immediately as Eoin Doyle got on the end of a corner but could only nod the ball wide.

There was palpable frustration towards the end, as CSKA engaged in time-wasting tactics and saw the game out in a pragmatic fashion.

There were also angry scenes at the final whistle, with Bradley De Nooijer sent off for an off-the-ball incident as the two sets of players confronted one another and had to be restrained in several instances. Pat’s player Adam O’Reilly also saw red for his involvement in the fracas.

CSKA will face Basel in the next round after the Swiss side beat Brondby on penalties this evening.

St Patrick’s Athletic: 1. Joseph Anang 12. Harry Brockbank (Owolabi 82) 4. Joe Redmond 5. Tom Grivosti 2. Barry Cotter 6. Jamie Lennon 16. Adam O’Reilly 8. Chris Forrester 19. Anto Breslin 15. Billy King (Atakayi 65) 9. Eoin Doyle 

Subs: 23. David Odumosu 7. Serge Atakayi 10. Rónán Coughlan 11. Jason McClelland 18. Ben McCormack 22. Sam Curtis 25. Thijs Timmermans 29. Patrick Barrett 30 Ross Fay 45. Tunde Owolabi

CSKA Sofia: 1. Gustavo Busatto 2. Jurgen Matthiej 4. Menno Koch 5. Bradley De Nooijer 15. Thibaut Vion (Gefereon 71) 7. Jonathan Lindseth (Tufedgdzic 71) 19. Ivan Turitsov 21. Amos Youga 27. Mauricio Garcez 28. Brayan Moreno Alvarez (Nazon 62) 10. Georgi Yomov (Shopov 62) 

Subs: 12. Aleks Bozhev 25. Dimitar Evtimov 16. Asen Donchev 6. Hristiyan Petrov 3. Geferson 8. Stanislav Shopov 9. Duckens Nazon 11. Lazar Tufedgdzic 13. Galin Minkov 14. Kaloyan Krastev 20. Yoan Baurensk 22. Enes Mahmutovic

Referee: Horatiu Fesnic (ROU)

Attendance: 6,760

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