DAVID SMITH - Friday, July 17, 2009
Johann Smith made his Rijeka debut in a losing effort while Ryan Guy and the Saints were unable to hold on for the win at home against their Luxembourg opponents.
Aalborg BK 0 - 0 FK Slavija
Marcus Tracy got the start for Aalborg, however they were unable to convert their home-field dominance into goals as they suffered a frustrating scoreless draw against FK Slavija on Thursday night.
The home team spent the first half keeping the pressure on Slavija's goal with Tracy and attack partner Jeppe Curth in the thick of things and looking set to open the flood gates at any moment, however a number of missed shots and clutch saves from keeper Mladen Lucic ultimately sent them into the half without a goal to show for it.
After returning from the break, Aalborg kept the tempo high and the go-ahead goal seemed to be just a matter of time, but again a series of near misses kept them off the scoreboard.
After 63 minutes, Tracy came close to latching onto a loose ball rolling towards the net, however Lucic managed to get to it first, averting any danger.
Aalborg coach Magnus Pehrsson pulled his American striker two minutes later in favor of young forward Henrik Dalsgaard for a change of pace but they were ultimately unable to break through with the final scoreline remaining 0-0 at referee's whistle.
While they were unable to bag any goals themselves, the shut-out of Slavija means Aalborg head to next Thursday's return leg in Sarajevo knowing that a non-scoreless draw would be enough to put them through to the next round.
In the meantime, Tracy and his teammates kick off their domestic league campaign on Monday against Aarhus.
St. Patrick's Athletic 1 - 1 Valletta FC
Ryan Guy help to set up the go-ahead go for the Saints, however they were unable to hang on to their lead, setting up a tough return leg next Thursday in Malta.
Coming into the game as sure favorites over the Maltese minnows Valletta, St. Pats looked the brighter out of the gates and saw several good chances to unrewarded before finally breaking through in the 37th minute.
After Guy sent in a cross from the right, midfielder Gareth O'Connor touched it into the path of on-loan striker Declan O'Brien, who made no mistake with his blast for the 1-0 home lead.
The relative injury crisis to the Saints began showing after the break as the defense was forced to endure Valletta's attempts to grab an away goal, and finally succumbed 20 minutes into the half.
A nice combination between veteran team captain Gilbert Agius and Dutch import Geert den Ouden led to the Maltese international Agius finally firing his shot past Saints keeper Gary Rogers for the equalizer.
The teams traded chances in the late going but kept each other at bay, with the final whistle blowing with one goal apiece.
The scoreline leaves the Saints in the tough position of needing at least one goal in Valetta's Ta' Qali Stadium next Thursday, where even a scoreless draw would be enough to see their opponents through to the next round.
FC Differdange 03 1 - 0 NK Rijeka
Johann Smith made his debut for Rijeka as a second-half sub, however was unable to help them avoid a disastrous defeat to Luxembourgian underdogs FC Differdange 03 on Thursday night.
Neither team was able to make any headway in the first half, however the hosts grabbed the winner 15 minutes after the break when Differdange's French striker Pierre Piskor added to his reputation as the most dangerous scoring threat in Luxembourg by finishing up a quick sequence to give his team the surprise winner.
Smith made his debut for the club after 68 minutes as coach Robert Rubcic looked to avoid the embarrassment however he was unable to turn the tide with Rijeka tumbling to the loss.
The win comes as a relatively major surprise for Differdange, who had gone 30 years without a win in European competition, with only one win in 20 tries prior to Thursday's upset.
Rijeka do have the comfort of returning home for next Thursday's second leg, however will need to regroup if they hope to avoid crashing out of the competition in humiliating fashion.