The New Saints left with Champions League mountain to climb after first leg defeat

Published date: 11 July 2017 |
Published by: Barrie White
Read more articles by Barrie White


THE NEW SAINTS will need to score at least three times iat Park Hall next week if they are to keep their Champions League hopes alive after defeat in Croatia.

A goal in each half gave HNK Rijeka the win as they dominated the Second Qualifying Round first leg.

However, TNS will be rueing a late chance to grab an away goal when Scott Quigley - the hero in the last round - chose to shoot instead of passing to Jamie Mullan. 

It was a poor start for the Saints as Rijeka took a fourth-minute lead when Josip Misic floated a free-kick home from around 20 yards out into Paul Harrison's top-left corner.

The expected onslaught from the Croatian champions never came as TNS defended resolutely in the thunder and lightning.

Rijeka, who had the lion's share of possession, failed to drive that advantage home and didn't really test Harrison again until three minutes before the break.

The Saints went into the break only a goal down.

Five minutes into the second half, the Saints were given a fright when Harrison failed to gather a simple cross, but his defenders cleared.

The hosts came out of the blocks in the second half and TNS found themselves under heavy pressure, while still standing firm. 

Harrison was a spectator on the hour when Alexander Gorgon's scuffed effort was flicked on by Misic with the TNS keeper left flat-footed s the ball flashed by his opposite post.

Minutes later, Quigley fired an effort just wide as TNS looked to steal an away goal.

Despite some breaks, TNS were being pegged back more and more, and the pressure told on 68 minutes as substitute Florentin Matei was able to tap home at the back post. 

Last season's star man Adrian Cieslewicz was brought off the bench for Wes Fletcher on 70 minutes with the aim of securing a vital away goal.

Four minutes later, Quigley nearly grabbed that all-important goal, but he failed to get enough of a touch onto Cieslewicz's flick-on and Simon Sluga gathered.

Quugley's decision making let him down with five minutes before the end as he opted to shoot from a tight angle into the side netting despite Jamie Mullan being free in the middle of the box.

Marco Vesovic should have put the tie out of TNS's reach in stoppage time, but he fired well wide.

Saints boss Scott Ruscoe will feel his side are more than in the tie ahead of next Tuesday's second leg in Oswestry. 

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