Depleted, but Glentoran go down fighting
Glentoran's European adventure appears to be over for another year after they went down 2-0 to crack Ukrainian outfit Vorskla Poltava at the Oval last night.
Goals from Roman Bezus and Ahmed Januzi killed off the Europa League second qualifying round first leg but should the east Belfast men, bar a miracle in Poltava next week, bow out they can do so with their heads held high as their makeshift team battled valiantly against a side with a £6m budget.
While the visitors always looked threatening on the break, Glentoran were largely comfortable and confident in the opening exchanges. They forced six corners and a free kick in a dangerous position up to the midway point in the first half, but with Colin Nixon missing, their normal aerial threat was too and each of the set pieces were cleared with ease by the tall, physical Vorskla backline.
As the corner count wracked up, the Glens were growing in stature and though Dmitri Asipenka volleyed wide when well placed on 21 minutes, at the other end Glentoran almost went in front.
Jamie McGovern's cross found Ciaran Martyn in the box and his goalbound header was cleared off the line by Oleksiy Kurilov.
However, the inexperience in Glentoran's backline - minus Nixon, Sean Ward and Johnny Taylor with Richard Gibson, a striker, and midfielder David Howland filling in - would prove to be their downfall as Vorskla opened the scoring in the 29th minute.
A corner from the right by Ivan Kryvosheienko found Volodymyr Chesnakov unmarked and he headed down for Bezus to fire into the roof of the net from close range.
If the first goal was down to a defensive lapse, then inexperience in the midfield was to blame for a second goal which arrived nine minutes later.
A sloppy pass was seized on by Januzi and he burst forward, one-on-one with Aaron Hogg and confidently dispatched past last week's penalty shoot out hero.
That all but signalled the end of Glentoran's challenge on the night - the attacking will which they had shown in the opening 25 minutes had been sucked out of them and the remainder of the game was a display of fight and courage.
Martin Murray did have a fierce shot deflected away on the hour mark but most of the action was taking place at the other end and to their credit, with skipper Jason Hill particularly outstanding, the Glens defended admirably.
There was a brief period when the home wide did inflict some pressure on Vorskla's goal, Darren Boyce having the ball nicked away just as he was about to pull the trigger on 70 minutes then a minute later Andy Waterworth sprung the offside trap but saw his shot well saved by Velychko.
Matty Burrows came on as a late sub for his final appearance for the Glens before setting off for a new life in Spain.
GLENTORAN: Hogg, McGovern, Gibson, Howland, Hill, Murray, Martyn (O'Kane 76), Cherry, Carson (O'Hanlon 76), Boyce, Waterworth. Subs: McGuigan, Beggs, Davison, Johnston.
VORSKLA: Velychko, Dallku, Krasnoporov, Bezus (Chychykov 82), Kryvoshiennko, Asipenka (Rebenok 79), Zakarliuka (Oberemko 65), Januzi, Selin, Chesnakov, Kurilov. Subs: Dolganskyi, Pyeskov, Sachko, Esin.
Referee: Meir Levi (Israel).