Impressive Slovaks prove far too good for Glentoran
Glentoran succumbed to an impressive Slovakian side, MKS Zilina, in a one-sided Europa League fixture at The Oval. The Glens battled bravely against the Slovakian professionals, with Conor McMenamin scoring a debut goal he will never forget, but ultimately Zilina just had far too much for the depleted Belfast side.
MSK Zilina of Slovakia might not be a glamorous name but they are one of a new-breed of wealthy Eastern European sides slowly but surely starting to make a impact in both the Champions League and the Europa League.
Perhaps then it was no surprise that the gap in standard between Glentoran and Zilina was so stark.
The young, athletic Slovakian side smothered a Glentoran team, whose preparation was described by manager Eddie Patterson as 'farcicial'.
The game may have been a one-sided affair, but Glentoran should be commended for their brave determination not to be entirely overwhelmed by Zilina, despite missing a number of key figures.
Although Glentoran enjoyed a bright opening five minutes, once the Slovakian side found their feet a goal became inevitable.
In the 13th minute, the hugely-impressive Cameroon-born right-back Ernest Mabouka was afforded too much space on the flank He flighted a marvellous ball into box which Matej Jelic turned into the net with an athletic scissor kick from inside the area.
Elliott Morris got a firm hand to the ball but he was only able to palm the ball into the roof of the net.
Zilina were relentless in their pursuit of a second goal. Corner-kick followed corner-kick as the east Belfast men found themselves pinned back.
Calum Birney conceded a free-kick and a yellow card in the 20th minute when he fouled captain Viktor Pecovsky, in a vain attempt to halt Zilina's advances.
Jakub Paur stepped up and produced one of the finest free-East Belfast venue has ever seen. His 25-yard effort arrowed into the top right-corner of the net, giving a forlorn Morris absolutely no chance.
In the 36th minute débutant McMenamin latched onto a loose Zilina pass, before using his lightning pace to evade the visitors' defence. His low shot was turned past the post by goalkeeper Milos Volesak.
On the hour mark, the Irish Cup holders failed to clear a Zilina corner-kick, and eventually a Lukas Cmelik shot deflected into the net off the unfortunate Calum Birney.
At 3-0, Glentoran fans must have feared the worse but the men in red, black and green put in a spirted display in the final 30 minutes.
The home faithful got their reward in the 66th minute when McCaffrey found McMenamin with a smart pass. McMenamin once again used his pace to speed away from the Zilina defence, but this time he made no mistake with the finish. His low effort was powerful enough to beat Volesak and found the net.
Zilinis got a fourth in the 81st minute.
Mabouka burst into the box before cutting the ball across the front of goal. The outstretched Marcus Kane slid in, only to see the ball deflect off his leg and bounce past the helpless Morris.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Holland, Birney, Gibson, Magee, Kane, McCaffrey (McAlorum 82), Gordon, McCullough, McMenamin, Stewart (Addis 62).
Subs Not Used: Hogg, Garrett, Nelson, Calvert. Goals: McMenamin 66.
MSK ZILINA: Volesak, Vavro, Letic, Mabouka, Skriniar, Kacer, Paur (Mihalik 62), Pecovsky, Benes, Jelic (William 88), Cmelik (Spalek 78).
Subs Not Used: Le Giang, Hucko, Skvarka, Klec. Goals: Jelic 13, Paur 20, Cmelik 59, Kane 81 (OG).
Man of the match: Jelic (Zilina). Referee: Marinus Kiipman (Holland).