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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Fahey: We just crumbled

Midfielder says Saints 'threw in towel' as Legia now face Celtic

A FAINT hope turned into bitter frustration as St Patrick's Athletic exited Europe last night on the back of a 5-0 lesson from Legia Warsaw, the heaviest Champions League defeat for an Irish club in 15 years.

And less than two years after he played in an Irish side humbled by home defeat with a five-goal margin - Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifier against Germany - Keith Fahey admitted that Pats simply crumbled under the weight of that Polish side in Tallaght Stadium last night.

Legia's half-time lead was 'only' of the 1-0 variety but even though they had practically assured themselves of a place in the next round and a meeting with Celtic, the Poles refused to take the foot off the pedal and instead tortured the Saints by slamming in four more goals, three in the last nine minute, giving them a 6-1 aggregate win and bringing back unwanted memories for Pats fans of their 10-0 dismissal by Moldovan opposition in their last Champions League outing, in 1999.

Chances

"It's not often that I have been on the end of a 5-0 defeat. We just crumbled in the end, it was very poor," Fahey told The Herald.

"The fact that we had created chances in the away leg gave me confidence going into last night's game, and in the first half they had a lot of possession but their final ball was poor, I thought maybe they were still a bit rusty as they are only starting off in their season but they were more clinical overall last night.

"We were up against it going into the game, I am long enough in the game to know that Legia would not be shocked twice. They didn't show us any respect last week and it cost them with the draw, they didn't show us much respect last night but at least they backed it up with the result.

"I went in at half-time saying that Legia were average, they were passing the ball out of play.

"We were missing a couple of lads, we had to change the team around, we lost Ken Oman when he pulled his calf in the warm-up and that did unsettle us a bit as Ken had done well last week in Poland.

"But that's no excuse, we just crumbled. Even if you're not going through, you should have some pride but it was all very disappointing.

"They were a good side but not great, not by any means. They have hopped off us 5-0 because we threw in the towel at 2-0 down but they are no world-beaters, they were passing balls out of play in the first half. And I feel that Celtic should beat them easily in the next round," added Fahey.

Already up against it as Legia had an away goal and a vast amount of experience through their many international-class players, Pats suffered a blow before a ball was kicked when Ken Oman pulled up with a calf strain in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Derek Foran, though Foran went on to have a solid enough game at the heart of the Saints back four, though he was part of that Saints defence in the last 10 minutes.

Legia teased their fans by not scoring until the 92nd minute in Warsaw but they waited until only 25 minutes into the game last night before getting their first, Miroslav Radovic finishing past Brendan Clarke after a defence-splitting pass from Michal Zyro.

St Pat's went close with a Fahey effort on 33 minutes which was touched out for a corner but Legia held their lead to half time.

But while Pats had been dominant in midfield for large parts of the game in the away leg, the Legia midfield men bossed the game last night, top-class players like Ondrej Duda and, Miroslav Radovic and Ivica Vdroljak making sure that Fahey and Killian Brennan could not get into the game while the match completely bypassed Christopher Forrester before he was substituted at half time.

Seven minutes into the second half, Celtic boss Ronny Delia - his side would face the winners of this time in the next round - left his seat along with assistant John Collins and headed home, though not before he shook hands with Cletic's major shareholder Dermot Desmond who was at the game, Delia content that his scouting mission was done and confident that he would be seeing Legia and not St Pat's next week. There was a warning sign that Legia were hungry for more goals on 61 minutes when Clarke had to pull off a point-blank save to keep out an effort from Zyro, and on 68 minutes Legia got their second. By this stage the Pat's defence had been rejigged and remodelled, Sean Hoare on for Ger O'Brien to make his Champions League debut but Hoare got a taste of how tough life is at this level when Michal Kucharczyk breezed past the Saints defender as if he was not there, sped down the left and crossed for Zyro, and even though Clarke got a touch to the Polish international's effort he could not keep it out.

On 81 minutes Radovic scored his second of the night when the ball broke to him on the right and he comfortably beat Clarke with a shot.

There was a brief response from Pats when sub Lee Lynch forced a save from Dusan Kuciak, the Slovak keeper for Legia who had had a quiet night.

But more goals did come for the away side. Jakub Kosecki set up his fellow sub Marek Saganowski on 86 minutes, the former Southampton man left with a simple tap-in and there was more pain in injury time when Conan Byrne headed past Clarke for an own goal as he tried to clear a cross from Tomasz Brzyski.

So it came around again that an Irish club can manage against opposition from a certain level but when top sides - Hertha Berlin, Steaua Bucharest, Red Bull Salzburg - come around, Irish teams are simply unable to cope.

"It seems to be that way," Fahey conceded. "I felt at half-time that we still had a chance of winning the game but it was another one of those hard-luck stories and they are common in Irish football these days."

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