A tenth minute header from Christy Fagan was enough to see the Saints record a first leg, 1-0 victory against AS Jeunesse Esch from Luxembourg at Richmond Park on Tuesday evening in their first round Europa League qualifier.
St Pat’s who were searching for their first European victory since 2012 started brightest and it was them who had the game’s first chance inside the opening five minutes, when Graham Kelly released Fagan in behind the Jeunesse defence and the forward flashed his low strike across Marc Oberweis goal where no Saints player could take advantage.
Fagan was again involved for the Saints when they opened the scoring in the 10th minute after a Conan Byrne corner was fired towards goal by Darren Dennehy, however, his effort was parried by the keeper, before the defender latched onto the loose ball and found Fagan who headed home from close range for his fifth European goal for the Saints.
With chances for the visitors being limited during the opening 45 minutes, Ken Corral had a great chance soon after when he raced onto a defence splitting pass from Robin Mertinitz before attempting to loop his effort over the head of Brendan Clarke, but despite being off his line the keeper did well to gather possession.
As Pat’s continued to dominate, Fagan continued to find himself in space. This time the forward failed to direct a Ger O’Brien cross towards goal from close range.
With less than ten minutes remaining in the first-half, the Saints had another great chance to extend their advantage when O’Brien and Fagan again combined. This time the forward could only head wide from close range after being found unmarked by the full-back.
Minutes later, the Saints had another great opportunity when Billy Dennehy skipped past Milos Todorovic down the left bye-line, before the Kerry native found Ian Bermingham who could only head wide at the near post.
Despite being forced to defend for large periods of the opening half, the visitors had a great chance of their own before the half-time whistle. A corner from the right caused havoc in the Saints box before eventually being cleared by Darren Dennehy.
When the sides re-emerged from the break, the Saints attempted to continue where they left off in the first half and inside the opening sixty seconds Fagan blazed over from 25 yards.
Jeunesse went in search of a precious away goal and they almost found it in the 56th minute when a cross from Giancarlo Pinna was flicked on by Mertinitz before the ball fell to Patrick Stumpf who could only fire wide from close range.
The Saints continued to press forward in search of a second goal that would give them some breathing space heading to Luxembourg next Tuesday and defender Sean Hoare thought he had doubled his side's advantage in the 74th minute when he headed home a Darren Dennehy flick on from a Billy Dennehy free-kick, but Darren Dennehy was adjudged to have been offside.
Minutes later, Jeunesse had a great chance of their own when Pinna found Stumpf with a cross from the left wing, but the forward's effort was cleared off the line by the excellent Darren Dennehy.
Moments later, Fagan forced a great save from Oberweis after the Saints broke through the middle of the park through Kelly, before the midfielder found Fagan whose close range shot was pushed behind by the Esch shot-stopper.
Despite some late pressure from Liam Buckley's side, the Saints failed to double their advantage and will take a slender 1-0 lead into the second leg next Tuesday at the Stade de la Frontière in Luxembourg.
St Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Darren Dennehy, Sean Hoare, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne (Mark Timlin 60), David Cawley, Keith Tracey, Billy Dennehy, Graham Kelly; Christy Fagan.
Subs Not Used: Patrick Jennings, Lee Desmond, Michael Barker, Dinny Corcoran, Sam Verdon, Jamie McGrath.
Yellow Cards: D Dennehy (25).
Jeunesse Esch: Marc Oberweis; Milos Todorovic, Ricardo Delgado, Adrien Portier, Herve Emmanuel; Martin Ontiveros (Andrea Deidda 71), Rene Peters, Giancarlo Pinna; Ken Corral (Ashot Sardaryan 24), Patrick Stumpf, Robin Mertinitz.
Subs Not Used: Frank Devas, Brandon Soares Rosa, David Soares de Sousa, Dylan Proietti, Thibault Westermann.
Yellow Cards: Todorovic (37), Mertinitz (58), Emmanuel (82), Deidda (89).
Referee: Pavel Orel (Czech Rep).
Attendance: 1,500 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ger O’Brien (St Patrick's Athletic).