Belfast Telegraph

Bannsiders denied a famous victory after late spot-kick misery

Spartak Subotica 1 Coleraine 1

By Steve Simpson

Coleraine almost earned an Irish League double in European competition against Spartak Subotica but were held to a 1-1 draw at the death by a penalty deep into injury time.

Having led for the vast majority of the game through Darren McCauley's first half goal, the Bannsiders were seconds away from a famous away win in Europe before Mile Savkovic's heartbreaking spot kick.

On Wednesday night, Glenavon recorded a superb 2-1 Europa League qualifying win over Norwegian side Molde, and Coleraine were moments away from adding a memorable success on their travels to Serbia.

The visitors, who were without manager Oran Kearney on the sideline in Subotica, were dealt a further blow prior to kick-off with the news that a registration error meant winger Josh Carson would not take part.

After a quiet opening, the home side almost took the lead inside 10 minutes when a clever flick found Savkovic inside the area but his effort was gathered by Chris Johns.

It was the same player who again should have given Spartak the lead when a fantastic cross by Stefan Milosevic was met by the midfielder but his header trickled narrowly wide.

The Bannsiders, however, soaked up all that pressure and took the lead on 23 minutes.

A long throw-in caused confusion inside Spartak's box and McCauley stroked home for Coleraine's first European goal since 2003.

Spartak were enjoying the majority of possession and almost drew level when the dangerous Andrija Vukcevic received the ball and strode towards goal, but his effort failed to hit the target.

Two minutes later, the home fans thought their side had equalised when Vukcevic's fantastic delivery almost found substitute Samuel Afum, but he couldn't convert.

Spartak - who finished fourth in last season's SuperLiga - threatened after the break when neat possession released Milosevic, who dragged his shot wide.

On the hour mark, Savkovic thought he had pulled his side level after being spotted by Noboru Shimuru, but Johns denied the winger acrobatically.

The Irish Cup holders were under severe pressure but almost doubled their lead.

A ball over the top picked out the run of Jamie McGonigle and the Northern Ireland Under-21 international forced Nikola Peric into a smart save.

Dejan Kerkez had two late chances for the hosts, and when it looked like they had run out of time, they were awarded a penalty late into added time when Ian Parkhill was adjudged to have fouled inside the box.

Savkovic made no mistake by sending Johns the wrong way, levelling the tie ahead of the second leg next week at the Showgrounds.

Belfast Telegraph

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