Larne fall to first European defeat as Pacos de Ferreira fire home four
Larne’s first European campaign in club history suffered a first defeat on the fifth appearance.
The Inver Park outfit’s story has been one of the summer highlights thanks to progress past Bala Town and Aarhus to reach the Europa Conference League third qualifying round.
However, following three defeats and draw to secure the chance in Portugal, Larne suffered a 4-0 first-leg reverse to Pacos de Ferreira.
Despite heading into the tie as sigificant underdogs, Larne will reflect on goals conceded late in each half and two in quick succession after the break as the harsh reality of European football’s increasing challenge.
Rohan Ferguson produced a fine save on three minutes to stop Denilson’s close-range header.
The initial pressure continued as Denilson was presented with another early opening - but his downward header bounced up and into Ferguson’s arms.
However, Larne regrouped and increased in confidence as play progressed in Portugal.
On the half-hour mark, Denilson was involved in a Pacos counter-attack but Ferguson produced the stop with a low save to his right.
A Larne attack in response ended with Dean Jarvis creating space for a cross but the hosts surrounded David McDaid before he could release a shot.
Larne found the net on 39 minutes off a well-worked set-piece move - but referee Matej Jug signalled for a foul in the build-up play to chalk off a dream goal for the Irish League outfit.
And Pacos entered half-time in control when the dangerous Denilson reacted to steal possession off goalkeeper Ferguson inside the penalty area and steer the ball home into the inviting net.
It proved a blow and the final talking point of the first half.
Ferguson pulled off a stop inside the opening moments of the second half with his feet to stop Denilson adding to the Pacos tally.
McDaid’s speculative effort from distance drifted wide of the target before Nuno Santos cleared the crossbar for the hosts.
But two goals inside four minutes cemented control of the first leg - and tie - for Pacos.
Denilson managed to double his tally with another predator’s finish to capitalise on a Larne pass across the danger area.
Then, soon after, Canada international Stephen Antunes Eustaquio drilled home into the bottom corner a low shot.
Spirited Larne carved out an opening late on when Cian Bolger connected inside the box but Albert Watson could only steer the header over the target.
And Pacos closed out the first leg with a fourth goal on 90 minutes as Silva De Jesus converted off Ferreira’s cross when the two substitutes combined in decisive fashion.
PACOS DE FERREIRA: André Ferreira, Baixinho, De Brito Gonzaga, Denilson (Da Silva Souza, 74), Delgado Baeza (Silva De Jesus, 67), Jorge Silva, Luíz Carlos, Da Silva De Jesus (Ferreira, 67), Ribeiro Vigário, Antunes Eustaquio, Nuno Santos (Djalo, 74).
Subs (not used): Menezes De Almeida, Antunes, Ibrahim, Duarte Castanheira, Rui Pires, Fernando, Da Silva Ramos, Sousa Silva.
LARNE: Ferguson, Jarvis, Balmer, Watson, Hughes, McDaid (Hale, 76), Herron, Sule (Mitchell, 66), Bolger, Randall (Kelly, 76), Cosgrove.
Subs (not used): Robinson, Argyrides, Scott, Lynch, Lusty.
REFEREE: Matej Jug.
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