Sean O’Connor reports from the Aviva Stadium
Bohemians’ European fairy-tale continued on Tuesday night, as they picked up an historic 2-1 victory against Greek heavyweights PAOK.
Two Ali Coote strikes either side of half time were enough to give the Gypsies a one goal advantage to take to Greece next week.
On a night where the odds were stacked heavily against the Dublin 7 side, Keith Long’s men stood up to PAOK, took the game to them and bossed the Lansdowne pitch for long periods. A remarkable performance when you consider Bohs are 276 European places below PAOK, not to mention the professional versus part-time gap between the sides.
Every man in black and red put in a monumental shift, with many winning their individual battles against seasoned internationals though Ciaran Kelly and Rob Cornwall deserve specific mention as they limited Premier League winner Shinji Kagawa to very few chances, and the Japanese international was subbed off after an hour.
The fact that Bohemians felt they should have scored more than two tells you that this is a team on the rise and brimming with confidence. Dawson Devoy should have added a goal just before half-time, while Tierney and Levingston also had good chances.
Ahead of the tie, Keith Long named an unchanged eleven from last Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Dudelange.
The visitors started very well, with James Talbot called into action with three minutes on the clock. Talbot made a fine save before the rebound was sent inches over the bar.
Five minutes in, Ali Coote drove down the right wing, but his cross was blocked. Ross Tierney’s run on the opposite flank proved unsuccessful, but the 8000 in the Aviva roared their support, trying to make it as hostile as possible for their Greek visitors.
Bohs first big chance arrived on the quarter hour mark. Tierney charged down on the POAK goal, chose to square it across to Kelly, but his pass was just behind the Donegal man.
PAOK’s first chance of the evening arrived shortly afterwards. Nelson Oliviera was played through on goal, but Ciaran Kelly did enough to shake the Portuguese international off the ball.
Just as they have done in their last two Aviva outings, Bohs took the lead first, this time on the 23-minute mark. Georgie Kelly won a heavy challenge before embarking on a powerful run down the right flank.
He squared the ball across and Coote was in the right place to stick out a foot to put Bohs ahead. The South stand ultras went ballistic as the Gypsies went ahead against the Greek heavyweights.
The hosts did not get too far ahead of themselves though and stayed solid at the back for the rest of the half. Rob Cornwall did very well to prevent Shinji Kagawa from equalising after Talbot made another fine save.
Bohs began the second half brilliantly when Anto Breslin’s free kick was sent towards goal. Tierney stood at the back post but couldn't convert his header although it was on target and the resulting corner proved vital.
The men from Phibsborough worked a short corner routine out to Coote, who found himself 30 yards from goal. The 23-year-old, with one glance up, tried his luck and smashed the back of the net.
Paschalaskis should have dealt with the effort better, but it was no more than Bohs deserved at that point. The Gypsies were looking nowhere near out of their depth in European football after a nine-year absence.
Talbot was called into action soon after, making a smart save from Oliveira. Over the next 20 minutes, Bohemians defended bravely, and limited the visitors to just a few half chances.
POAK pulled a goal back with fifteen minutes remaining, which was Bohemians’ first goal conceded in the Aviva in over four hours. Oliveira headed past Talbot from a cross that should have been dealt with. However, Bohemians saw out the remainder of the game well, every goal kick and throw in an opportunity to waste precious seconds.
At full-time, the 8000 fans in Lansdowne Road went wild as their European journey takes another step forward. The Bohs faithful will be hoping that this won't be the last they see of their side in Europe in 2021. The sides meet in the second leg on Thursday, 12th August.
Bohemians: James Talbot; Andy Lyons, Ciaran Kelly, Rob Cornwall, Anto Breslin; Ross Tierney, Dawson Devoy (Conor Levingston 76), Keith Buckley (c); Georgie Kelly, Ali Coote (Keith Ward 87), Liam Burt (Tyreke Wilson 87).
Subs not used: Enda Minogue, Stephen McGuinness, Sean Grehan, James Finnerty, Robert Mahon, Rory Feely, Aaron Doran, Stephen Mallon, Jamie Mullins.
Booked: James Talbot (69).
PAOK: Alexandros Paschalaskis; Vieirinha (c), Fernando Varela, Rodrigo Soares, Giannis Michailidis; Andrija Zivkovic (Thomas Murg 68), Stefan Schwab, Shinji Kagawa (Jasmin Kurtic 63), Anderson Esiti (Christos Tzolis 63), Omar El Kaddouri (Diego Biseswar 63); Nelson Oliveira (Karol Swiderski 81).
Subs not used: Zivko Zivkovic, Eleftherios Lyratzis, Adrian Pereira, Theocharis Tsiggaras, Lucas Taylor Maia Reis, Georgios Koutsias, Enea Mihaj.
Booked: Tzolis (77) Lucescu (86)
Referee: Antti Munukka (Finland)
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