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Friday 9 December 2016

Europa League: Sigh of relief as Saints progress

Jeunesse 2 St Pat's Ath 1 (2-2 agg, St Pat's win on away goals)

Darren Dennehy heads the key goal in Luxembourg
Darren Dennehy heads the key goal in Luxembourg

No European exit yet for St Patrick's Athletic as an away goal in Luxembourg last night saw the Dublin side get into the second qualifying round of the Europa League, despite a 2-1 defeat to Jeunesse Esch.

It was a nervy night on the continent for the Saints as keeper Brendan Clarke pulled off a series of saves late on to keep them in the tie, but they have defender Darren Dennehy to thank for their place in the next round and a trip the former USSR.

"It's a relief," manager Liam Buckley said. "Overall, I thought we just about deserved it, although there really wasn't a lot between the teams."

The Saints will now play the winners of tomorrow's second leg between Dinamo Minsk (Belarus) and Spartaks Jurmala (Latvia).

Pat's took a 1-0 lead from the home leg into last night's second leg, but disaster struck when Patrick Strumpf scored for Jeunesse midway through the first half. Defender Dennehy headed in from Keith Treacy's corner on 73 minutes, his first goal for the club, that precious away goal giving the Dubliners a massive advantage Because even though Strumpf scored again three minutes from time to leave the score 2-2 on aggregate, that Dennehy goal made the difference.

The Saints now await the outcome of the second leg in Latvia tomorrow, Dinamo Minsk holding a narrow 2-1 lead from the first leg. "I've no doubt that, whoever it is, it is going to be a step-up from what we faced here," Buckley said last night.

"Either team would be tough opposition. Dinamo Minsk are third in the Belarus league, just six points behind leaders BATE Borisov, and Spartaks are top of the Latvian league. But there is more to come from us."

The Dublin club will hope that Spartak's Jurmala can come through as a trip to Belarus - Pat's would be away for the second-round first leg next week - would pose a logistical nightmare in terms of flights and visas, but a trip to Jurmala, just outside Riga, would afford Saints fans the chance to travel.

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