Saints 1-2 FK Trakai
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Thursday 29th June
St. Johnstone fell to a 2-1 home defeat in the first leg of our Europa League qualifying tie against Lithuanians FK Trakai.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring when 21-year-old Russian striker Maksim Maksimov fired home after 14 minutes.
Saints responded well and scored an equaliser through Joe Shaughnessy from a Liam Craig corner just after the half hour mark.
But The Knights got back in front moments later when Vaidotas Silenas's fine long-range effort beat Zander Clark in the Saints goal.
In the second half St. Johnstone were far more dominant and created a number of great chances - the best of which fell to Graham Cummins who was unable to fire the ball past Plukas from close-range.
Goalscorer Silenas was sent off late on for a second booking after a rash challenge on debutant Stefan Scougall, but his side held on for the away victory.
The sides meet again next Thursday in Vilnius, with St. Johnstone needing to score at least two goals to qualify for the next round.
Saints headed into this Europa home tie coming off undefeated in preseason friendlies with 0 goals earned against. Steven Anderson was injured, giving Ally Gilchrist a chance to start in the back.
The first 5 minutes were dominated in possession by the Saints, however a Trakai goal in the 14th minute by striker Maksim Maksimov saw the momentum shift significantly.
At the 19th minute Paul Paton did well to get the ball wide to Graham Cummins who then dropped the ball back to Steven MacLean setting him up, but the low driven ball was collected by the keeper.
On 25 minutes a poor challenge from a Trakai defender on Liam Craig gifted Saints a free kick which directly lead to two consecutive shots that were blocked with a attempt going over the bar.
Just after the half-hour, Joe Shaughnessy breathed life back into the home side as his diving header redirected the corner from Craig into the bottom left corner. 1-1
But three minutes later a phenomenal strike from Trakai defender, Vaidotas Silenas, soared past Clark and into the upper right corner. 1-2
HT: St Johnstone 1-2 FK Trakai
An unchanged Saints come out playing with more urgency to find a way back into the match.
Shaughnessy received a booking in the 54th minute for a late tackle on Maksimov, but Saints began to build up momentum in the second period.
In the 62nd minute, Tommy Wright made two changes in the middle of the park as both David Wotherspoon and Paul Paton were subbed off for Chris Millar and recent signing Stefan Scougall, who made his competitive debut for the club. The introduction of the former Sheffield United man noticeably lifted the side, with his first few touches leading to a couple of half-chances and the winning of a corner after his attempt on goal was deflected.
Midfielder Blair Alston displayed some fancy footwork as he shook multiple defenders and had a shot which was just deflected wide. The resulting corner saw the Saints score only to have the goal disallowed due to a foul on the Trakai goalkeeper by Cummins.
A Trakai substitution saw Wakili replaced by Cyzas in the 81st minute. One minute later Trakai defender Silenas made a late challenge on the impressive Scougall which resulted in a booking, and then picked up a second yellow for descent leaving Trakai down to 10 men with minutes to go.
In the 83rd minute Saints made their last sub as Chris Kane entered the game replacing Liam Craig, changing the Saints into a more attacking formation, ready to throw the kitchen sink at the Lithuanians.
A minute later and St. Johnstone created the best chance of the night as Richard Foster passed the ball to Millar on the edge of the box who then made a quick pass to the feet of the on rushing Alston inside the area, who played a great ball across goal to Cummins, but the Irishman failed to get enough power behind his shot to beat the visiting goalkeeper and the attempt was blocked.
In the 89th minute Trakai made a substitution, Kruk replacing Dorley, who applauded the McDiarmid Park crowd who in turn applauded him.
A minimum of 4 minutes of extra time were added, where Trakai made their final substitution, Cesnauskis replacing Maksimov.
The final whistle blows on a hugely disappointing result for the Saints who will seek redemption in the away tie next Thursday. Full time: St Johnstone 1-2 FK Trakai
Saints: Clark, Alston, Shaughnessy, MacLean, Wotherspoon (Scougall, 62), Paton (Millar, 62), Foster, Easton, Craig (Kane, 83), Gilchrist, Cummins.
Goals: Shaughnessy (32)
Booked: Cummins (37), Shaughnessy (54)
FK Trakai: Plukas, Vorobjovas, Maksimov (Cesnauskis, 90), Dorley (Kruk, 89), Janusevskij, Silenas, Wakili (Cyzas,81), Shyshka, Klimavicius, Borovskij, Bychanok
Goals: Maksimov (14), Silenas (35)
Booked: Silenas (81, 81)
Referee: Jovic (CRO)