O’Brien winner sends St. Pat’s through
Valletta 0-1 St Patrick’s Athletic
St. Pat’s win 2-1 on aggregate
Declan O’Brien grabbed a glorious winner as ten-man St Patrick’s Athletic overcame Maltese side Valletta on away soil in the Europa League.
Seconds after substitute Darragh Ryan’s harsh dismissal on 79 minutes, Pat’s nicked a goal when O’Brien headed a Jason Gavin cross to the back of the Valletta net. They qualify to meet Krylya Sovetov Samara of Russia the third qualifying round.
Having being held 1-1 in the first leg Jeff Kenna’s charges were under considerable pressure, but they responded brilliantly.
Hampered by the blistering heat and completely aware that they had to rattle the Valletta net Pat’s required a bright start.
And that is precisely what Pat’s enjoyed as they passed carefully during the first half to frustrate the hosts.
True, Valletta had the better opportunities with Gary Rogers denying Jordi Cruyff, Gilbert Agius, and Jamie Pace, but Pat’s were distributing the ball well.
In the centre of the park Stuart Byrne and Gareth O’Connor were using their experience wisely, while Ryan Guy and O’Brien persevered in attack.
Guy spurned the Dubliners’ best opening period chance in the 17th minute as the American dragged a right footed shot wide following a Jason Gavin delivery.
An hour in, Kenna summoned Alan Cawley from the bench to bring further subtlety to the Saints’ football, and the game became stretched.
Shortly after his introduction, Stephen Maher released O’Connor, who drew a save from Andrew Hogg.
Then a wicked Cawley free kick caused panic in the Valletta defence as the Saints busily went in search of the lead goal.
Pat’s were in deep trouble when Darragh Ryan was red carded for a foul on Gijsbertus Den Ouden in the 79th minute, but they still attacked.
Jason Gavin’s sweet cross from the right located O’Brien within a minute, who provided the close range finish to send the Saints into the third qualifying round.
Valletta: Hogg; Briffa, Dimech, Cruyff, Scicluna, Bezzina; Grioli (Agius, 70), Pace, Agius, Fallon (Zammit, 83); Den Ouden.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Rogers; Gavin, Harris, Partridge, Stevens; Maher (Lynch, 82), Byrne (Cawley, 60), O’Connor, Ryan (Ryan, 74); Guy, O’Brien.
Referee: M Jug (Slovenia).