Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine left to regret missed opportunity for Euro progress

Coleraine 0 Spartak Subotica 2

By Robert Jones

Coleraine were to rue missed chances as they exited the Europa League after a 3-1 aggregate loss to Serbian side FK Spartak Subotica.

The Bannsiders dominated proceedings on the Ballycastle Road but a combination of excellent goalkeeping and poor finishing cost Oran Kearney's men dearly as the visitors booked a spot with Sparta Prague in the next round.

Mile Savkovic - who scored a dubious penalty late in added time in the first leg - opened the scoring, before Bojan Cecaric added a late second as Coleraine cruelly exited Europe.

In a lively start at the Showgrounds, Subotica should have taken the lead on 17 minutes as Ognjen Duricin cut inside from the right, nutmegged Coleraine defender Aaron Traynor and struck inches wide with the goal at his mercy.

Three minutes later, it was the Irish Cup holders who threatened as Traynor's fantastic cross met Ian Parkhill at the back post and the winger's header forced Nikola Peric into a smart save, before a cross from Parkhill found Darren McCauley at the back post but he blazed over.

That fired the Bannsiders into life and a free flowing move involving Traynor, Aaron Burns and McCauley forced Peric into a smart stop as Eoin Bradley loomed large.

However Kearney's men would suffer a blow on 33 minutes as a free-kick from Nemanja Glavic met the unmarked Nemanja Calasan at the back post. The defender's flick on was headed home by Savkovic who couldn't miss from close range.

The home side recovered well and created a chance two minutes later as a quick free-kick from McCauley was picked up by Traynor and the full-back's rasping drive went narrowly wide of the far post.

Coleraine - who knew they needed a goal to stay alive in the Europa League - thought they had equalised at the start of the second-half as Bradley held the ball up for Burns but the attacker's strike was saved by Peric.

Moments later, Peric was the thorn in the Bannsiders attack as Traynor's cross met Parkhill at the back post and his header was palmed away by the stopper.

Stripes boss Kearney decided to shuffle his pack on the hour mark by introducing Ciaron Harkin and Jamie McGonigle, with the latter being sent clear by Bradley. The Northern Ireland under-21 international took a great touch and bore down on goal but his effort trickled inches wide.

Spartak were sitting deeper and deeper but Coleraine fans would feel more frustration on 70 minutes as Harkin's corner kick was flicked on by McGonigle and defender Stephen O'Donnell couldn't convert from close range.

There was further frustration for the home support on 83 minutes as Adam Mullan's wayward shot picked out McGonigle, but Peric dived to keep out his instinctive effort.

On 87 minutes, a clever free-kick by Brad Lyons released the run of Stephen Lowry but the summer arrival at the Bannsiders was denied by the body of Peric.

As Coleraine pushed for a vital equaliser they were undone on the counter attack as Savkovic rushed past Gareth McConaghie and squared for Cecaric who converted from close range.

A harsh result for the Bannsiders who were arguably the better side over the two legs.

Belfast Telegraph

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