Dylan O’Connell reports from Turners Cross
Cork City have been left with a mountain to climb in Luxembourg next week after a lightning first half display from Progres Niederkorn saw off the Leesiders by two goals to nil.
Goals from Belmin Muratovic and Mayron De Almeida shocked the crowd of just over 3,000 at Turners Cross on a night which saw City go eight games without a win in all competitions.
John Cotter’s side started brightly, and through Colm Horgan and Gary Buckley in the wing-back positions, linked up well with the midfield early on which forced Progres wide.
22-year-old centre-back Tim Hall was however able to read the danger and broke up much of the Leesiders attacking threat with minimal fuss.
Progres Niederkorn grew into the game through the energetic Mayron De Almeida. After testing the City defence earlier with a curled effort, the Belgian winger was denied seconds later by Dan Casey as he tried to meet Tom Laterza’s chipped ball.
The visitors pushed on, clearly encouraged by their early openings and quickly took the lead through Muratovic.
A pressing Muratovic dispossessed Horgan in the area, and as City tried to regroup defensively, he gathered and pulled the shot together, as the midfielder slotted it low into the back of the St Anne’s Stand net.
Halfway through the opening period, Progres doubled their lead via the penalty spot as Horgan was adjudged to have taken down De Almeida in the box by referee Aleksandres Anufrijevs who had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The on-song winger had no nerves as he buried the ball into the top corner past Mark McNulty, for his third goal in as many games.
City immediately introduced Mark O’Sullivan in an attempt to salvage the tie who came on in place of the struggling Horgan.
A fierce Gearoid Morrissey shot was palmed away by Sebastian Flauss as City’s attack showed signs of life, before Karl Sheppard won a penalty for City.
Despite the release from the Shed End, the City captain’s penalty was in vain as Sebastian Flauss dived right to flick it over the bar.
The second half was one of frustration for the Rebel Army, as Progres Niederkorn retreated into a 4-5-1, enclosing the midfield and pushing City forward.
John Cotter’s side, despite the evident frustrations, pushed to the very final whistle with the physicality of Mark O’Sullivan causing problems for the pairing of Aldin Skendervoic and Hall.
However, the FAI Intermediate Cup winning striker’s effort’ were in vain as an organised Progres plugged many of the gaps which cut off any sight of goal for a toothless Cork frontline.
In the closing moments, Gary Boylan came to City’s rescue to clear from a point-blank header by Kempes Waldemar Tekiela in front of goal which would have all but ended the tie.
Cork City: Mark McNulty, Colm Horgan (Mark O’Sullivan 24’), Sean McLoughlin, Gearoid Morrissey, Conor McCormack, Garry Buckley (Gary Boylan 60’), Ronan Hurley, Karl Sheppard, Conor McCarthy, Joel Coustrain (Darragh Crowley 80’), Dan Casey.
Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan; Alan Bennett, Daire O’Connor.
Booked: Dan Casey (52), Gary Buckley (59).
Progres Niederkorn: Sebastian Flauss, Aldin Skendervoic, Ben Vogel, Mayron De Almeida, Belmin Muratovic (Jack Mamee 70’), Kempes Waldemar Tekiela (Issa Bah 90’), Sebastien Thill (Adrian Ferino 86’), Tom Laterza, Tim Hall, Metin Karayer, Christian Silaj.
Subs not used: Youn Czekanowicz, Yannick Cervellera, Yannick Bastos, Yann Marques.
Booked: Tim Hall (19), Sebastien Thill (82).
Referee: Aleksandres Anufrijevs.