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St Johnstone 0-1 Minsk (agg 1-1): Saints’ home defeat

FC Minsk defender Aleksandr Sverchinskiy, left, holds off Nigel Hasselbaink. Picture: SNS

FC Minsk defender Aleksandr Sverchinskiy, left, holds off Nigel Hasselbaink. Picture: SNS

St Johnstone waved goodbye to their 42-year unbeaten home record in European competition as FC Minsk claimed a penalty shoot-out victory to end their Europa League hopes.

Milnos Rnic struck the only goal of the game for the visitors after 75 minutes but Saints clung on through extra time to take the third qualifying round encounter to the spot-kick decider.

Skipper Dave MacKay and Paddy Cregg missed the Scots’ first two attempts but salvation looked to be on the cards when Alan Mannus saved successive attempts by Vital Kibuk and Siarhei Kazeka to level it 2-2.

But Steven MacLean saw his decisive penalty stopped by the Belarusians’ number one Vladzimir Bushma to end the Perth men’s hopes of landing the £1.1million windfall that comes with a place in the group stages.

Hamburg, Vasas Budapest, Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, VPS Vaasa, Monaco, Eskisehirspor and Rosenborg have all failed to topple Saints on their own ground since they made their UEFA Cup bow in 1971.

But the stubborn Belarusians snatched finally ended that proud run with Rnic’s volley as they took the game beyond extra-time.

Yet St Johnstone - who had led 1-0 from the first leg - passed up a couple of gilt-edged chances in the first half that would have sealed their place in the play-off round.

First Stevie May failed to finish from 12 yards when Minsk stopper Bushma blocked at his feet after 28 minutes. Then Nigel Hasselbaink sent a half-volley wide of target seven minutes before the break.

There were warning sides for the Perth men that Minsk were dangerous when Aliaksandr Sviarchynski came close with a set-piece midway through the second period but that near-miss was not heeded and Rnic equalised for the away side with quarter of an hour left.

Saints’ agony was confirmed with MacLean’s miss in the shoot-out, while there were angry scenes when Siarhei Sasnouski was shown a red card after the final whistle for goading the deflated home team.

 

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