KENNY SHIELS’ brave Derry City side produced a heroic performance to clinch an unlikely victory over Dinamo Minsk in Belarus but it just wasn’t enough to send them through to the Europa League second round.
Second half substitute, Ronan Hale netted a deserved winning goal on 74 minutes after All Roy had stunned the hosts with a seventh minute strike but it was Aleksandr Sachivko’s equalising goal on 28 minutes which proved decisive as the Belarusians scraped through the tie on a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
So the Candy Stripes bow out of Europe but do so with their heads held high and Shiels will be hoping the performance can breathe new life and belief into their stuttering league campaign as they look towards a trip to Cork City on Monday night.
Shiels made one enforced change to the team which lost the first leg at Brandywell with the suspended Conor McDermott replaced by Gavin Peers. The City boss, however, deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation with Peers joining Dan Seaborne and Darren Cole in a three-man defence with Jamie McDonagh and Ben Fisk offering support in the wing-back roles.
Dinamo made FIVE changes in total from their first leg victory including their goalkeeper, Andrei Harbunou who was replaced by Belarusian international, Syarhey Ignatovich and both goalscorers from the first leg were dropped to the bench as they perhaps underestimated the Foylesiders.
There was an estimated 10,000 attendance including Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko as the Dinamo fans turned out in force to witness the club’s long awaited homecoming to their redeveloped stadium after a six year absence.
However, the home support were left stunned on seven minutes as Roy breathed life into Derry City’s European hopes of advancing with a composed strike into the corner of the net as he took his chance brilliantly.
The Scotsman played a clever one-two with Aaron McEneff on the edge of the penalty area as he got in behind the Dinamo defence before sending the keeper the wrong way with a well placed right-footed effort.
It was a dream start from the Brandywell outfit and the former Hearts and Sligo Rovers man came close to adding a second on 15 minutes when he took advantage of a hesitant Dinamo defence but his shot from a tight angle was turned behind at the near post by Ignatovich.
From the resultant corner McEneff delivered dangerously towards the back post where the unmarked Peers headed back towards goal and Cole’s headed effort from eight yards was saved comfortably by the keeper.
Dinamo were on the back foot and the home side were fortunate when Rory Hale released Roy with a searching ball over the top on 26 minutes but the Dinamo keeper came quickly out of his box and breathed a sigh of relief when his clearance deflected off the City striker and went behind.
Two minutes later, however, the home side found the back of the net following a free-kick whipped in from the left side. The Derry defence failed to clear their lines after several attempts before it fell to Sachivko who fired his first time effort into the corner of the net from six yards.
Needing to score two goals in the second half it was a big ask for Shiels’ troops. Two minutes after the restart however, Cole lost possession deep inside the Derry half and just as Artem Solovei looked to be clean through on goal, Peers managed to get a last ditch tackle in and received a booking for his troubles.
Uros Nikolic then tried his luck with a powerful strike from 25 yards on 51 minutes but Doherty did superbly to parry it away and Seaborne saw it out of play as City absorbed a sustained period of pressure.
Peers was gifted a glorious chance on 59 minutes when a Derry corner was played short to McEneff. His driving shot was going wide of the target but Peers rose unchallenged and somehow directed his effort away from goal at the far post.
Substitute, Ronan Hale picked up a loose ball in the Dinamo final third and fired it first time on the half volley but it went narrowly over the bar on 73 minutes.
And Hale found the net 60 second later to set up a grandstand finish. A ball over the top was brought down superbly by Roy who sidestepped the defender before laying it off to Hale and he made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Straight up the other end Dinamo were in behind the City defence but Rory Hale did enough to put Seidu Yahaya off and he shot into the side netting while skipper, Bykov’s header from a free kick forced an outstanding save form the outstretched hand of Doherty.
Cole produced a goalline clearance in the 91st minute while Doherty made another tremendous save following a goalmouth scramble at the death to ensure the win for the Candy Stripes but it wasn’t enough to keep them in the competition.
Dinamo Minsk: S. Ignatovich; M. Shvetsov, S. Yahaya, A. Bykov, U. Nikolic, A. Saroka ( P. Ivanov 62), A. Solovei (U. Khvaschinski 67) M. Zhavnerchik, A. Sachivko, R. Begunov, A. Gurenko (Ostroukh 84); Subs Not Used - Gorbunov, Galovic, Ksenofontov.
Derry City: G. Doherty; D. Seaborne, G. Peers, D. Cole; J. McDonagh, R. Hale, A. Splaine, B. Fisk (B. Doherty 89); A. McEneff, D. Shiels (Ronan Hale 70); A. Roy; Subs Not Used - E. Grimes, E. Toal, A. Delap, N. Logue, R. Patterson.
Referee - Jens Maae (Denmark)