Legia Warsaw Fans (Geraint Duckfield)
Ryan Fraughan provided TNS Director of Football, Craig Harrison with his first UEFA Champions League goal early into the first half, but the talented Polish outfit responded with positive second half determination, with goals from home bred international Michal Kucharczyk, Marek Saganowski and Jakub Kosecki in this second round first leg tie at Wrexham’s Glyndwr University Racecourse. (reports Robert Clement).
The Polish champions arrived in north Wales following a six week break, having previously brushed aside Slask Wroclaw 5-0, with a Saganowski hat-trick followed by a Kucharczyk goal, all during the first half. Meanwhile TNS had completed their Corbett Sport’s league campaign in late April with a 4-1 win at Bangor City.
Faced with the daunting challenging task against the highly accomplished Ekstraklasa league eastern European champions, it was Miroslav Radovic who delivered a right sided cross into the TNS goalmouth, with Phil Baker’s attempted clearance glancing off his head, for the ball to then rebound off the crossbar, within the opening nine minutes.
TNS Celebrate the Ryan Fraughan goal (Photo: TNS)
The action then switched to the opposite end two minutes later, with the Saint’s gaining their first corner when Jakub Wawrzyniak directed behind an attempted cross by Simon Spender. Fraughan’s flag kick was touched back to him by Jamie Mullan, allowing Fraughan to make positive progress into the penalty area, to despatch a low shot which whistled through the legs of former West Ham United keeper Dusan Kuciak, for the Park Hall outfit to make the perfect crucial breakthrough.
There was a second opportunity for TNS to increase their slender lead after twenty two minutes, with Bartosz Bereszynski halting the progress of Mullen, but it was Chris Seargeant who was unfortunate, lashing a left sided free kick which fizzed across the face of the Legia goal.
Four minutes later, Radovic was teasing the TNS defence and was obstructed by Chris Marriott; Helio Pinto’s free kick managed to find Legia skipper Ivica Vrdoljak in space, but he was only capable of sending a rising shot over the top from fifteen yards.
Legia continued to apply pressure in an attempt to draw level, when Pinto delivered an additional ambitious warning, with him close to finding the target, placing a shot over the bar following a Radovic opening.
Legia Warsaw celebrate their second goal (TNS Photo)
There was a golden opportunity for the Saint’s four minutes before the interval, with Kuciak unable to smoother a well timed shot from Michael Wilde; however it was Jakub Wawrzyniak who was the first to react with a hasty clearance just outside the six yard area.
Moments later Alex Darlington burst forward with his superbly struck effort beating the keeper, only for the ball to rebound back off the base of the far post, and straight into the stretching palms of Kuciak.
With Jan Urban clearly concerned about his team’s performance during the first half, he made two substitutions for the second period, and within two minutes of the turnaround Legia were back in the game with an equaliser.
A lightning burst of speed down the left touch-line by Georgian international Vladimir Dvalishvili was continued by Kosecki, but it was Kucharczyk who produced a dazzling run in mid-field to outpace Marriott, and finally apply a fierce finish, which goalkeeper Paul Harrision was unable to stop.
Two minutes after that TNS setback, new arrival Dominik Furman accelerated into Saint’s territory, to send a cracking drive narrowly over the goalframe, with him injecting a fresh sense of urgency about Legia’s match-play.
Simon Spender challenges for the ball (TNS Photo)
With rapidly improving quality and consistency Legia gained a free-kick just outside the TNS penalty box after Baker had obstructed Kosecki. Furman then saw his scoring attempt rebound off the four men defensive Saint’s wall, with Fraughan swiftly relieving pressure with a vital clearance.
The visitors grabbed the opportunity to add a second goal after fifty seven minutes, when a lengthy touch-line throw into the danger zone by Kucharczyk, allowed thirty five times capped Saganowski apply a delicately directed headed finish into the far corner of the net from ten yards.
Wilde threatened to produce a fight back with him bringing under control a Seargeant free kick, only to fire a left footed finish just past the upright after Aeron Edwards had been impeded by Kosecki after seventy three minutes.
Legia swiftly responded within a minute of that piece of action, when a lengthy cross-field opening by Furman was seized upon by
Kosecki and the lively striker made swift progress towards the penalty area to deliver a breathtaking unstoppable finish past Harrison.
There was a late option for the Saint’s, with the tie well into added on time, when Michal Zyro upended substitute Sam Finley, but Seargeant’s final piece of action was scooped over the bar by Baker.
The New Saints Director of Football, Craig Harrison later spoke with Welsh Premier League reporter Robert Clement pitch-side, with it being a game of two half’s, which contained celebration, followed by disappointment, after the Saint’s had made a stunning early impact, which was then cancelled out by Legia Warsaw’s second half fight-back.
“We definitely had the better of the chances and scored a goal, along with possibly a second, with the width of the post denying us with the ball bouncing back to the keeper”.
He added, “I wouldn’t say that we were cruising, but we were in control of the game; they didn’t pepper our goal, with Paul Harrison not having to make a save, and Phil Baker along with Kai Edwards didn’t have to throw their bodies on the line with no last gasp defending”,
“They did have a scruffy header which took a deflection and hit the bar; apart from that they didn’t trouble us in the first forty five minutes, but in the second half they’ve come out and by the looks of it had a bit of a bollocking; making two substitutions which were key, with Dominik Furman coming on and for fifteen minutes, he was outstanding with his range of passing being top drawer”.
Legia Celebrate the third goal (Photo: TNS)
With Ryan Fraughan offering joy and celebration for Harrison, with a first Champions League goal, after being unable to penetrate a stubborn Helsingborg rearguard twelve months ago, the former Airbus (UK) Broughton boss admitted that the breakthrough arrived at an ideal time.
“Yes it was, we knew their weaknesses, they didn’t have many, but we were aware that they had one or two and we tried to play on them, and we were successful in getting a goal from one of them, along with a second chance later on, so doing our homework has obviously paid off, but on the bigger picture we got beat 3-1, and I’m certainly sick of it along with the players”.
“We don’t want to be nearly men; the lads have worked so hard and put on such a fantastic performance in that we wanted to win the game. Ryan Fraughan has made the breakthrough following a short corner, to then whip the ball in at the near post; where perhaps we thought that the goalkeeper was not at his strongest, and we thought brilliant, it’s going to be O.K.”
“Alex Darlington was unlucky hitting the base of the upright after beating the keeper and being very unfortunate. He did exceptionally well today, he worked tirelessly and it was hard playing off the lone striker, where you have to be disciplined, but when he got the ball he was a real threat along with Michael Wilde”.
“We’ve almost done it on two occasions; it’s going to be tough out there but we’re not throwing the towel in, hopefully we’re going to get the first goal, and then it’s game on”.
“Unfortunately for us they brought two internationals on which changed the game, especially with Dominik Furman in midfield. We expected him to start and they might have been a bit cold coming on at half-time, but within fifteen minutes he’s done the damage and really changed the tide of the game”.
“We can hold our heads up despite this first leg defeat against a class European side; every single one of the lads and staff should be proud tonight, they really have worked hard and all contributed a lot into the performance, but we’ll be going out there and at least the one thing we’ll not want to do is get beat in the second leg; that will be our aim, so we’ll be wanting to win, if not, the worse case scenario is certainly not to lose the second leg, and that’s what’s going to be our aim”.
Swansea based Polish interpreter Magdalena Olszak, then spoke with Legia Warsaw coach Jan Urban in the Glyndwr University Media Centre, with him responding with his impression of The New Saints.
Legia Warsaw Fans (Geraint Duckfield)
“I have to say that in the first half they frightened us with the way they played, forcing us to defend strongly”.
The fifty one year old former Osasuna striker, who scored forty eight goals following 168 appearances for the Spanish side during a four year period in the 1990’s, along with fifty seven international caps for Poland was asked how he compared the two half’s?
“Both Helio Pinto and Miroslav Radovic were not physically fit during the first half, so I replaced them with Dominik Furman and Michal Kucharczyk, and there was a much better team performance with us scoring three goals”.
Magdalena Olszak then interviewed Marek Saganowski, who in December 2009 was on target twice for Southampton, in a 3-0 win against Swansea City reserves at their Staplewood training ground, to once again score against Welsh opposition tonight, with the second goal, which provided the Polish champions with the lead.
“Yes I can recall seeing Colin Pascoe who is now with Liverpool, and playing in the game was Jazz Richards who has progressed to the national team”.
He was then asked how much his career has improved, following his departure from Southampton.
“A lot has changed, with me going to Atromitos in Greece and then back to Poland”.
“In this match the first half was a big problem, with us starting very badly and it was disappointing. I wish that we had begun like we did in the second half when we scored our three goals”.