The Saints fell at the first hurdle as a diligent and clinical display from their Lithuanian opponents saw them suffer a disappointing defeat at Richmond Park
St Patrick's Athletic's European season is over after they struggled to create the chances needed against a clinical Zalgiris side. After an impressive 2-2 draw in Vilnius, the Saints were defeated in Dublin. Goals from Mantas Kuklys and Kamil Bilinski put the visitors ahead before Killian Brennan got one back from the penalty spot.
Both managers set their sides out to attack and the first 15 minutes started at a frantic pace with the first clear chance falling to midfielder Chris Forrester. Winger Conan Byrne drifted past Vaidotas Silenas and played a low cross along the six-yard box, but a poor first touch from Forrester meant he was unable to get the ball from under his feet and produce a clean strike on goal. Zalgiris keeper Armantas Vitkauskas rushed out and smothered the ball with ease. Conan Byrne continued to cause trouble down the right wing, breaking into space again on 25 minutes, but his cross went just beyond Forrester at the back post.
Pat's began to assert dominance on the game in terms of possession and territory but struggled to test Vitkauskas in the Zalgiris goal. The Lithuanian outfit responded excellently and looked dangerous on the counter attack. Sloppy play from Killian Brennan in midfield led to a great chance for the away side to break the deadlock. Swift link-up play left Pavel Komolov in space, but Forrester did well to get back and block the attempt on goal.
A long-range dipping free kick from Mantas Kuklys forced Brendan Clarke to make his first notable stop of the game. Playmaker Komolov found himself on the ball more often as the half drew on and the momentum of the game began to turn. On the stroke of half-time the Lithuanian side took the lead to deflate Liam Buckley's side. At the edge of the area, the ball fell kindly to Kuklys, who took one touch to open the angle, and drilled the ball past Clarke.
The home support were animated come the start of the second half but were quickly silenced as Zalgiris added a second on 51 minutes. Neat play from Komolov put substitute Rytis Leliiuga into space down the right, who in turn played Kamil Bilinski through on goal. The Polish striker produced a tidy finish that Clarke could do little about.
With the Saints stunned, Liam Buckley made a drastic tactical change in an attempt to reinvigorate his side. Defender Aidan Price came on for Conan Byrne and the Airtricity Premier Division league leaders switched to three at the back for the final half hour. Anto Flood came off the bench to provide another outlet in attack, giving the Zalgiris back four something else to think about.
With less than eight minutes left in normal time, Flood got in behind his marker in the box and was dragged down, leaving Croatian referee Igor Pristovnik with no option but to point to the spot. Killian Brennan stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, hammering the ball into the opposite corner to give the hosts a lifeline.
Pats were unable to grab the elusive second goal and Zalgiris made it through the next round 4-3 on aggregate. Zalgiris will face Armenian side Pyunik in the Second Qualifying Round, with the first leg taking place on July 18.