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St Pat's matchwinner thanks God and family after inspiring stunning win

Serge Atakayi gave Saints fans a moment to remember in Sofia.

St. Patrick's Athletic's Serge Atakayi celebrates scoring.
St. Patrick's Athletic's Serge Atakayi celebrates scoring.
Image: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

ONE MONTH ago, few if any Irish football fans will have been familiar with the name Serge Atakayi.

And regardless of what the player does or does not go on to achieve from this point onwards, the 23-year-old DR Congo-born attacker will live long in the memory of St Patrick’s Athletic fans in particular for inspiring one of the best results by an Irish side in Europe in recent memory.

With the game increasingly open and still scoreless, the former Finland underage international was introduced in the dying stages of Thursday’s Europe Conference League first leg between Pat’s and CSKA Sofia.

Shortly thereafter, the player showed great pace and anticipation, capitalising on a wayward defensive header before showing excellent composure with the finish.

It was a moment to savour for the Richmond Park outfit and for the player himself, whose signing by the Dublin club on an 18-month contract was only announced on 15 July.

“I have worked very hard since I’ve come here,” he said after the game. “I’m very happy to score. Every time you play football if you get a chance you have to take it. That’s how football is.”

Asked whether it was one of the best nights of his career, the former Rangers player added: “Yeah, I can say at this moment, because my football has been up and down quite a lot. So this means a lot for me, for my family, so thankful for this win in Europe and I’m very thankful to God.”

It was also a moment of partial redemption for Atakayi. Last weekend, a stray backpass was punished amid a shock 3-2 FAI Cup defeat against First Division side Waterford in a moment that he admits left him feeling down, albeit only briefly.

“Just maybe one day — maybe Monday. After the game, I was not happy, I just spoke to the manager and he said to be myself, so that’s how football is. 

“I was disappointed we didn’t go through because the club won the cup last year and that was my main aim when I came here, I wanted to win the cup.

“But the most important thing was to win [on Thursday] so that’s why I am so happy to win the game.

“All my family just texted me. I tried to speak to them and I was called to do the [post-match] interview. I will call them afterwards.”

The message from Clancy, he added, was to bring “energy” with both sides tiring, and Atakayi did exactly that amid a memorable cameo.

When asked whether he already felt like a club legend, the attacker replied: “I cannot say I am a legend, I’ve not come here to be a superstar, I’ve come here to work hard, to be a good player, to improve and for my career.

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“With these lads, they will help me to improve as a football player.”

Attention now turns to Thursday’s all-important second leg in Tallaght Stadium, and Atakayi says the Saints are determined to complete the job.

“We need the fans for the next game to stick with us, we need everyone to be behind us.

“It’s just halfway and anything can happen but we are now in the lead, so hopefully [we will progress].

“Now we have more belief because we have won away, we’re going back to Dublin, to our fans, so they are under more pressure coming to us.

“But we need to be more focused, the game is not done yet. Hopefully, we can finish it next Thursday.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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