Belfast Telegraph

Spot-kick agony brings an end to St Johnstone's Euro run

By Steve O'Neill

St Johnstone 0 Minsk 1 (Minsk win 3-2 on pens after 1-1 agg): St Johnstone waved goodbye to their 42-year unbeaten home record in European competition as FC Minsk claimed a penalty shoot-out victory to end their Europa League hopes.

Milnos Rnic struck the only goal of the game for the visitors after 75 minutes, but Saints clung on through extra-time to take the third qualifying round encounter to the spot-kick decider.

Skipper Dave MacKay and Paddy Cregg missed the Scots' first two attempts, but salvation looked to be on the cards when Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus saved successive attempts by Vital Kibuk and Siarhei Kazeka to level it 2-2.

Steven MacLean saw his decisive penalty stopped by the Belarusians' number one Vladzimir Bushma to end Tommy Wright's team's hopes of landing the £1.1m windfall that comes with a place in the group stages.

Hamburg, Vasas Budapest, Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, VPS Vaasa, Monaco, Eskisehirspor and Rosenborg have all failed to topple Saints on their own ground since they made their Uefa Cup bow in 1971.

The stubborn Belarusians snatched finally ended that proud run with Rnic's volley as they took the game beyond extra-time.

Saints' agony was confirmed with MacLean's miss in the shoot-out, while there were angry scenes when Siarhei Sasnouski was shown a red card after the final whistle for goading the deflated home team.

Meanwhile, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall was proud of his team's effort after a cruel European defeat against Kuban Krasnodar.

Motherwell lost 1-0 in Russia to exit the Europa League third qualifying round 3-0 on aggregate but were never outclassed against a team unbeaten in the Russian Premier League since November.

Motherwell were undone by a Stephen McManus headed own goal five minutes after half-time and had the perfect chance to level in the final minute but Bob McHugh failed to convert a penalty.

McCall said: "I was proud of them. It was a good effort."

* SWANSEA manager Michael Laudrup insisted European football was important to the club after the Premier League side completed their task against Malmo.

A goalless draw in Sweden carried Swansea through 4-0 on aggregate from the third qualifying round of the Europa League, and they go into today's play-off draw hoping for a tie they can come through.

"We want to go into the group stage. Let's see who we play. Then from the group stage we'd have at least six more games," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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