Derry set up Europa League tie against CSKA Sofia
DERRY CITY 1-0 SKONTO RIGA
(Derry City win 2-1 on aggregate)
Derry City are bound for Bulgaria next week following this victory over Skonto Riga at an electrifying Brandywell.
And it was midfielder, Kevin Deery, who was hailed the hero when his fortuitous 57th minute strike from 35 yards crept into the Riga net.
No stranger to heroic status in Europe, Deery didn’t travel to Riga due to a calf strain but he bounced back at the Brandywell to send the old stadium wild.
Derry will now face CSKA Sofia next Thursday night in the third preliminary round and hopes are high that Stephen Kenny can reproduce his magic of three years ago, guiding his "Candystripes" to further progression in the Europa League.
Holding a precious away goal in the 1-1 result in Latvia the previous Thursday night, Deery’s low 35 yards shot crept into the Skonto net with ‘keeper Germans Malins and the Brandywell erupted.
And it was a thoroughly deserved win for Stepehen Kenny’s battle-hardened troops, who bossed the second half and held their nerve in what was a terrific atmosphere.
Kenny’s claim that the game remained finely balanced was correct as Skonto certainly had their chances in the opening period when keeper, Gerard Doherty, produced two top drawer stops.
With both teams prepared to go for it, the attendance was certainly kept on its toes.
In fact, the Brandywell erupted when last week’s goalscoring hero, Tam McManus, appeared to be hauled down when inside the box but the Dutch referee, Pol Van Boekel dismissed those appeals.
Skonto left-back, Raivis Hscanovics, got a timely header to a Thomas Stewart cross as Derry’s Gareth McGlynn was about to pounce on 8 minutes.
However, in the 15th minute Skonto right winger, Aleksandrs Cauna produced a superb shot but home keeper, Gerard Doherty, got down superbly at his near post to make a vital save.
McManus went close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful free-kick in the 18th minute but his effort screamed narrowly wide of the upright.
But Derry could not afford to take anything for granted when their failure to deal with a defensive clearance saw the alert Brazilian striker, Junior, produce the perfect flick placing the ball into the path of Igors Tarasovs but his shot was again blocked by the well placed Doherty.
Skonto keeper, Germans Malins, found himself heavily involved in the action when he palmed another McManus effort over his crossbar but, on the half hour, the keeper really excelled.
McManus’ close range shot was pushed into the air by Malins and when Sammy Morrow rose to head the ball into the net the keeper again made a top save.
Striker Morrow was taken off on a stretcher during the early stages of the second half with what appeared an ankle problem.
But there was a surprise in store in the 57th minute when Deery found the Skonto net from 35 yards.
Deery’s effort appeared to have been covered by the keeper, however, the ball crept into the corner of the net as Malins made not attempt to save thinking the shot was going wide.
Clive Delaney headed a Deery corner over the crossbar in the 64th minute as Derry’s tails were up and from that point, Skonto were denied any scoring chance, the home back five putting in a magnificent performance.
Skonto-Riga: Malins; Golubevs, Hscamoniqs, Gamezardashvili, Smirnovs; Kozlovs, Fertovs (Mingazov, 65 mins.), Tarasovs (Laizans, 68 mins.), Cauna; Junior (Agafonov, 83 mins.), Blanks.
Derry City: Doherty; McCallion, Delaney, Hutton, O’Brien; McGlynn (Scullion, 87 mins.), Deery, Molloy, Stewart (Farren, 73 mins.); Morrow, McManus.
Referee: Mr. P. Van Boekel (Netherlands).