Tam keeps Derry City alive
A priceless away goal from Tam McManus earned Derry City a fantastic score draw at Skonto Riga, in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.
The draw means it’s all to play for in next Thursday night’s return leg at the Brandywell.
The game was in doubt following a thunder storm a few hours before kick-off, which left the Skonto stadium with not just pools of water on the pitch, but their dressing rooms were also ankle deep in water.
However, great work by the Riga ground staff meant the game went ahead.
Derry gave Scotsman McManus only his second start of the season, as Stephen Kenny reverted to a 4-5-1 formation, which served them so well during that memorable UEFA Cup run three years ago.
However it was the home side that started on the front foot.
Winger Fertovs easily got away from Stephen Gray and his low centre found Nathan Junior Carvalho, but the Brazilian dragged his shot wide.
Skonto opened the scoring after 17 minutes following another swift counter attack.
Junior created some space before sending in an inch perfect centre for Igors Kozlovs and the midfielder’s diving header from 10 yards flew past a stranded Gerard Doherty. Junior then skipped away from Clive Delaney, but the striker’s drive was kept out by Doherty.
Just before the interval the Brandywell men scored that crucial away goal.
A superb pass by Ruairdhi Higgins released Mark Farren and his accurate centre found an unmarked McManus who calmly headed home from close range.
City went close to taking the lead 90 seconds later.
Gareth McGlynn’s cross, which would have picked out McManus, was diverted over his own bar by David Gamezardashvili.
Derry made a double substitution ten minutes from time when Eddie McCallion came on for Stephen Gray, while goalscorer McManus was stretched off and replaced by Sammy Morrow.
Morrow’s clever lay-off fell to Martyn, but the midfielder while on the stretch, couldn’t keep his close range shot down.
Skonto Riga: Malins, Golubevs, Hsèanoviès, Gamezardashvili, Kozlovs, Fertovs, Laizans, Nathan Junior, Semjonovs, Smirnovs, I. Tarasovs. Subs: Cauna for Semjonovs (62); Agafonov for Laizans (77); Melnièenko, Blanks, Mingazov, Petrenko, Gailus.
Derry City: Doherty, O’Brien, Delaney, Hutton, Gray, McGlynn, Higgins, Molloy, Martyn, Farren, McManus. Subs: McCallion & Morrow for Gray & McManus (80); Stewart for Farren (87).
Referee: Albert Toussaint (Luxembourg).
Motherwell fell to a 1-0 Europa League defeat to Flamurtari after Ermir Strati fired home from 20 yards in the 66th minute to give the Albanians a first-leg victory in the second qualifying round.