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Monday 23 October 2017

Casualties of warsaw

Legia cruise past a sorry St Pat's with 5-0 win and seal a Celtic showdown

WITH almost 40 minutes still to play, Celtic boss Ronny Delia left his seat in Tallaght Stadium, made for the exit and headed back to Scotland.

By that stage his work, a scouting mission ahead of next week's third-round tie against the winners of the St Patrick's Athletic-Legia Warsaw tie, was done and so were St Patrick's Athletic in the Champions League.

Legia led 1-0 at the break, were still 1-0 up when Delia and his assistant John Collins left, and won 5-0 on the night as the honesty and endeavour of the Saints was no match for the mighty Polish side, who should really give Celtic something to think about in the first leg in Warsaw next week.

In a reverse of what happened in the first leg a week earlier, Legia raised their game in Dublin and, as their manager Henning Berg predicted, played to their highest-possible level after a sub-par display in the 1-1 draw at home.

Pats never reached the heights they set in Warsaw and never really got out of gear, the impressive Ondrej Duda and Ivica Vdroljak completely running things in midfield to the extent that Keith Fahey and Killian Brennan never had the time or space to impose themselves, and Legia toyed with a clearly fatigued Pats for the last 20 minutes, with goals on 81 and 86 minutes adding to the bruising for the Saints.

Interesting

It's into the Big Stakes stage now for Legia and Celtic, and it was interesting that Dermot Desmond, who has such a control over events in Glasgow, was in Tallaght Stadium for last night's match, Celtic's major shareholder doubtless concerned about the threat Legia will pose to the Bhoys.

Sadly, for much of the game this was men against boys, Legia ripping Pats apart in the second half.

Saints boss Liam Buckley had spent the previous week mulling over events in Poland and wondering how to counter Legia in Dublin and get into the next round.

So, having fine-tuned his tactics there was a blow for Buckley before a ball was kicked as veteran defender Ken Oman suffered an injury in the warm-up and, though he had been named in the starting XI, he had to be replaced by Derek Foran, though Foran went on to have a very solid game at the heart of the Saints defence.

Despite that early blow the Saints started well, and the first real chance of the game came to Killian Brennan, who saw his fourth-minute shot saved by keeper Dusan Kuciak.

Pat had hoped to make Legia work hard for any chances they'd get but the first opportunity for the Poles was gifted to them by the home side, as a poor pass from Saints captain Ger O'Brien went straight to Ivica Vdoljak, he fed Ondrej Duda and keeper Brendan Clarke had to work hard to make a save.

Keith Fahey dictated much of the game for Pats in Warsaw and he was key to their plans last night, Legia clearly aware of the international's status and ability as he was regularly tracked and body-checked by 
Legia.

Duda earned a booking for a foul on Fahey on 18 minutes while Duda clashed with Fahey again just before the break.

But Fahey was unable to get a grip on the game as much as he wanted or as Pats needed and when they got their breakthrough goal on 25 minutes, it came through midfield.

Michal Zyro sliced Pats open with a well-timed ball to Miroslav Radovic and the man who broke Pats' hearts with his late goal in Warsaw a week earlier finished calmly to beat Clarke.

Pats still had something in them and they went close to scoring on 33 minutes. Killian Brennan surged forward and fed the ball to Fahey, whose shot took a touch off keeper Kuciak and went out for a corner, but sadly the Saints could't keep up the pressure and somehow that corner kick ended up going all the way back to Clarke in the Saints goal.

At half time Buckley decided that as Pats needed a goal they needed a change and he made that switch at the break, Christopher Forrester - who had a frustrating first 45 minutes without much time on the ball - replaced by Mark Quigley.

Pats did have a bit more bite about them - a bit too much as far as the Swedish referee was concerned as Greg Bolger was booked for a foul on Radovic - but there was no way through that tight Legia midfield. A Fahey run on 51 minutes tried to set up a chance for Brennan but the Drogheda native ran out of room.

Saved

In the 56th minute Michal Kucharczyk, who had a quiet night up to that point, tested Clarke but the Dubliner saved easily.

Clarke was more concerned on 61 minutes when Zyro had one of Legia's best chances of the night - it was route one, a long ball from defence by Rzezniczak which fell kindly for Polish international Zyro in the box and Clarke had little time to think but still managed to pull off a save, while a Tomasz Brzyski free kick on 65 minutes was narrowly wide.

Clarke's opposite number Kuciak was having a quiet night though he had to be alert on 58 minutes when a Conan Byrne corner kick was deflected out to Fahey and his shot flashed just wide of the post.

Even the optimists in the home crowd sensed that Legia had another goal in them and that duly arrived in the 69th minute. Kucharczyk burst down the left, going past defender Sean Hoare as if they youngster wasn't there and when he crossed for the unmarked Zyro, all he had to do was beat Clarke, who did get a touch to Zyro's effort but the ball still scrambled over the line to give Legia a 3-1 aggregate lead.

Radovic made it 3-0 on the night nine minutes from time, the Serb speeding down the right and stabbing his shot past Clarke, but they had more goals in them.

Jakub Kosecki got involved on 86 minutes, setting up his fellow sub Marek Saganowski for a tap-in for Legia's fourth and in added time it was 5-0 to Legia, Conan Byrne scoring an own goal as he tried to clear a cross from Brzyski.

That 5-0 loss was the heaviest home defeat in Europe in over a decade and brought back memories of a 5-0 loss for Pats at home to Moldovan opposition in the Champions League back in 1999.

The Saints now try to get their domestic form back on track and aim to be back in the Champions League next season, a big ask as they are nine points adrift in the tilte race.

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