Thursday 6th July
Despite a battling performance this evening in Vilnius, St. Johnstone were defeated 1-0 by FK Trakai, who scored through a late strike from Russian striker Maksimov Maksim.
The result, together with last week's loss in Perth, means the Lithuanians progress to the next round of the competition with a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Saints were on top for the majority of the game but couldn't find a way past a stubborn home defence, limiting St. Johnstone to a handful of clearcut chances.
Tommy Wright made five changes to the side that started last week’s 2-1 home loss to the Lithuanians as Murray Davidson and Chris Millar came into central midfield, while Chris Kane and Stefan Scougall were given the striking roles. New signing Scott Tanser came in for the injured Brian Easton to make his competitive debut at left-back.
Saints started the match well, getting in the faces of their opponents and not giving them time to stroke the ball around the park like they had done at McDiarmid Park.
Blair Alston on the right side of midfield was able to get at the opponents in the early stages of the match, but a stuffy Lithuanian backline prevented Saints from creating much space in the area, restricting Tommy Wright’s side to shooting from outside the area, while balls played into the box were headed away.
But it was Trakai who created the first clear cut chance as the Liberian international Oscar Dorley passed the halfway line and played a forward pass to striker Maksim Maksimov. Joe Shaughnessy managed to get between the Russian and the ball to shield it back to Zander Clark but Maksimov managed to get in and get a touch to the ball before falling to the ground claiming for a penalty but the referee waived play on.
Moments later and the hosts snuck in again. This time Chris Millar headed the ball back into the area after pressure from Dorley, and it fell to Valdemar Borovskji who raced away from Tanser and tried to lob Zander Clark by flicking it into the left corner of the net. To Saints’ relief it bounced just in front of the open goal and was cleared away by Richard Foster at the back post.
Blair Alston then won a free kick on the right-wing, which Liam Craig crossed in for Shaughnessy at the back post but the former Aberdeen defender’s header was finger-tipped over the bar by Ignas Plukas. The resultant corner from Alston saw Shaughnessy come close again, beating his man at the backpost but Plukas managed to keep out the effort.
With Saints dominant, another good chance was created. Gilchrist hoofed the ball forward for Kane who managed to reach the ball before the defenders but his flick was saved comfortably by the Trakai goalkeeper.
In the second half, Aleksandr Bychenok’s cross-field pass found Dorley on the left wing and the 18 year old controlled the ball with one touch before getting a shot away just as Alston was about to reach him. Clark got down well to save and hold onto the ball as the Trakai attackers ran in.
Joe Shaughnessy came close again for Saints, when Alston’s beautifully weighted cross from just outside the box found the head of the Irishman but his effort when just past the post.
Trakai then went on the attack again. Maksimov had the ball on the right-wing and managed to cut the ball inside and fire a left-footed curling shot at goal – which went just over the bar.
The Lithuanians were then reduced to ten men on 57 minutes as Arunas Klimavicius received a red card for a second bookable offence.
Minutes later and a Liam Craig corner got the home defence in a panic as the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance found Stefan Scougall on the edge of the box, who played the ball back into the area. The ball hit off a number of players from both sides before former Nigerian youth international Alma Wakili managed to clear with a bicycle kick.
Both sides came close as the game began to fizzle out – the impressive Maksimov hit the side-netting while Saints substitute Graham Cummins saw his header from David Wotherspoon cross held well by Plukas.
Then on 88 minutes Trakai struck with a killer blow. Right-back Mychailo Shyshka picked the ball up and just as he approached the halfway life managed to spot Maksimov unmarked and advancing towards goal. The long-ball found the Russian, who with his first touch fired well past Clark as Shaughnessy and Gilchrist tried to recover ground. The 21-year-old revelled in the acclaim from the home crowd as ‘The Warriors’ sealed their place in the next round.
This was a game Saints bossed for the majority of the match but a lack of compsure in the final third meant the game frustratingly slipped away from the Perth side.
Trakai: Plukas, Vorobjovas, Cesnauskis (Kruk 60), Maksimov (Traore 90), Dorley, Janusevskis, Wakili, Shyshka, Klimavicius, Borovskij (Cyzas 81), Bychenok. Unused subs: Sheremeta, Masenzovas, Marazas, Mamaev.
Saints: Clark; Foster, Shaughnessy, Gilchrist, Tanser; Alston (Cummins 76), Davidson, Millar (MacLean 63), Craig; Scougall (Wotherspoon 74), Kane. Unused subs: Mannus, Kerr, Paton, Thomson.
Trakai: Janusevskis (28), Bychenok (37), Klimavicius (43, 57), Dorley (82). Saints: Davidson (28), Tanser (32), Alston (76).
Attempts: Trakai 6-13 Saints Shots on target: Trakai 3-6 Saints Shots off target: Trakai 3-4 Saints Shots blocked: Traka 0-3 Saints Corners: Trakai 0-6 Saints
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