Stephen Kenny’s brave charges crashed out of the Europa League last night to CSKA Sofia — but they didn’t go down without a fight.
Brazilian striker Marcos Malachias broke Derry City’s hearts twenty minutes from time when he fired home the goal which effectively sent his side through to the next round, though goalkeeper Gerard Doherty will feel he could have prevented it.
Derry started with their now traditional European 4-5-1 formation with striker Mark Farren replacing Gareth McGlynn — who moved onto the bench — down the left hand side, in their only change from last week’s first leg encounter in Sofia.
Doherty had his work cut out as early as the fourth minute when full-back Pavel Vidanov’s well hit drive, which saw the ball move in the air was kept out at full-stretch by the City stopper.
The Bulgarians were under pressure themselves soon after when a Ger O’Brien cross caused problems in the CSKA box, but Tam McManus was unable to get his head to the ball.
The visitors were unfortunate not to fall a goal behind in the 23rd minute when brave goalkeeping by Zdravko Chavdarov nearly gifted Ruaidhri Higgins a chance.
Stephen Gray’s high looping ball teased the keeper towards the penalty spot, were he collided with Kevin Deery, but referee Jerome Efong Nzolo waved play on as the ball fell to Higgins, but his first time shot from 30 yards was deflected behind for a corner.
Chavdarov was replaced by Ivan Karadjou for his troubles.
Malachias who had been cautioned early in the half was lucky to still been on the pitch when the striker clearly dived, but was merely given a strong talking to by the referee.
A defensive mistake by Peter Hutton nearly brought the opening goal for CSKA in the 38th minute when the City skipper lost the ball in midfield, but fortunately for him last week’s goalscoring hero Ivan Stoyanov couldn’t capitalise.
Right on the stroke of half-time the Bulgarian’s brought another smart save from Doherty, this time Stoyanov’s well hit drive from just inside the area was kept out at full stretch by the Creggan man.
That man Malachias was in the thick of the action again in the 56th minute and this time he missed the chance of the match. A terrible header back towards his keeper by Clive Delaney fell well short but the Brazilian striker, in latching on the the loose ball, saw his shot on the half-volley was superbly kept out by Doherty.
City had a super chance to level the tie in the 68th minute but Higgins’ header from six yards was easily gathered by Karadjou and that opportunity came back to haunt Derry as CSKA went straight up the other end and scored that all important away goal.
Malachias’ 35 yard free-kick, after Delaney had upended Ivan Stoyanov, superbly curled around the Derry wall and flew past a flat-footed Doherty.
To their credit the Candystripes came fighting back and equalised on the night, eight minutes from time when a Higgins free-kick from the left found Hutton at the back post and his header back across goal found substitute David Scullion who made no mistake from close range.
Unfortunately Derry’s joy was short lived when substitute Gareth McGlynn was surprisingly shown a straight red card following a challenge on Orlin Orlinov.
Derry City: Doherty, O’Brien, Delaney, Hutton, Gray; Stewart, Higgins, Molloy, Deery, Farren, McManus. Subs: McGlynn for Farren (52); Scullion for Molloy (74); Nash for McManus (89).
CSKA Sofia: Chavdarov, Vidanov, Kotev, Timonov, Petrov, Ivanov, Yanev, Malachias, Todorov, Minev, I Stoyanov. Subs: Karadjou for Chadron (29); Miguel for Simonov (65); Orlinov for Markova’s (82).
Referee: Mr Jerome Efong Nzolo (Belgium)