Despite a brave performance, Sidy Keba Koly’s 61st minute goal was enough to finally put an end to Cork City’s brave inaugural foray in the UEFA Youth League, who matched Italian giants AS Roma pound-for-pound once again, only to just come up short.
While the result on the night didn’t go the way of the Rebel Army, another battling performance against one of the top rated youth academies in the world, and semi-finalists two years ago, just proved once again how strong this Cork City underage side is, and the Leesiders plaudits since last Wednesday’s encounter have been richly deserved.
City manager Stephen Bermingham stressed the importance of an early goal, but the visitors were lucky not to go behind only six minutes in, when Edoardo Soleri capped off a fine run with a clever ball in behind, but beneficiary Sidy Coly was denied by the outstretched left foot of David Coffey.
The reigning Italian champions dominated possession in the opening half-hour, and apart from a Kevin Taylor free fisted over by Lorenzo Crisanto it was largely one-way traffic. 22 minutes in Soleri kissed the crossbar with a header from one of Alessandro’s umpteen corners, as the hosts continued to be left frustrated.
The Rebel Army hung in though, and could have had the unlikeliest of leads, when Crisanto could only push out Aaron Drinan’s low effort, but Alec Byrne just couldn’t fashion enough space to stop the Roma custodian from smothering the follow-up, before Soleri fired a warning shot just over on the stroke of half-time.
The visitors came into the game a bit more on commencement of the second, as the sun began to slowly set over Stadio Tre Fontane (the former Roma home ground, hosting its first competitive game involving i Lupi in a decade), stretching their Italian opponents as Cian Coleman drove a shot over the bar from the edge of the box. However, that exposed the wings, and on the hour mark their good work was undone as Filippo Franchi was given too much space and crossed for Coly, whose original header was brilliantly saved by Coffey, but the Senegal native was there first to tuck home the opener.
Just like in the first leg, however, Bermingham’s men refused to give in, and after Daire O’Riordan teed up Denzil Fernandez, the right winger was so unlucky to see his dipping volley come back off the crossbar. That was as good as it got going forward; however in the dying minutes, having stayed down from a collision with Soleri minutes earlier, goalkeeper David Coffey flew across his goal to deny Emanuele Spinozzi and put the Cork custodian in the back of an ambulance following the final whistle.
The act left a lasting impression on the sizeable home crowd, as City’s brave battle was finally summed up.
Cork City: D Coffey; P Phillips, C McCarthy, A O’Sullivan, K Taylor (G Manley 86); C Coleman, A Byrne; D Fernandez (W Armstrong 84), D O’Riordan (R Welch 82), C Ogbene; A Drinan.
AS Roma: L Crisanto; E De Santis, L Grossi (N Tofanari 88), R Marchizza (S Ciavattini 73), L Pellegrini; A Bordin (A Marcucci 53), D Frattesi, E Spinozzi; F Franchi, E Soleri, S Keba Coly.
Referee: Z Proske (CZE).