ALAN Mannus was St Johnstone’s hero as they won through to the third qualifying round of the Europa League courtesy of a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Scorers: St Johnstone - May (23 pen); FC Luzern - Schneuwly (54)
After extra time, 2-2 on aggregate
St Johnstone won 5-4 on penalties
The Northern Irish keeper produced a superb save from Marco Schneuwly’s spot-kick, the second of the Swiss side’s five, and extra-time substitute Tam Scobbie completed a perfect set for Saints to give the Perth men a 5-4 triumph.
A mini pitch invasion at the climax, which could get the club into trouble with Uefa, was the only negative on another historic night for the Scottish Cup winners.
Following a 1-1 draw in Lucerne last week, the sides battled to the same scoreline over 90 minutes in the return leg at McDiarmid Park. A 23rd-minute penalty from fans’ favourite Stevie May gave St Johnstone a one-goal advantage, with the comfort of an away goal also in the bag, but Schneuwly, just four minutes after being introduced in the 54th minute from his surprise place on the bench, ensured the teams finished regulation time all square.
Saints substitute Liam Caddis crashed a shot off the upright just two minutes from the end of extra time and it was left to penalties to separate the teams after three and a half hours of football.
Steven MacLean, Caddis, Dave Mackay – who missed in last year’s agonising penalty-kicks defeat to FC Minsk – and May left it on the shoulders of Scobbie, who made no mistake with an emphatic fifth.
May, who was recalled after a thigh injury, put early pressure on the Swiss defence as he chased a long ball that brought keeper David Zibung racing off his line to head clear.
The ball fell kindly 40 yards from goal for MacLean but the striker’s eventual attempt was blocked.
Luzern came close to the opener as the diminutive Jamir Hyka curled a beautiful cross to the back post but Adrian Winter volleyed across goal.
However, having emerged unscathed and seen Bozanic substituted with a back injury, the McDiarmid Park side took the lead midway through the half.
David Wotherspoon’s corner troubled the visitors and Belgian referee Jonathan Lardot adjudged Hochstrasser to have hauled down Gary Miller. May blasted the spot-kick into the top corner.
Luzern responded and Chris Millar made a heroic block before Remo Freueler brought a magnificent diving save from Mannus. With the ball falling to the visitors six yards out, Saints were relieved to see Dario Lezcano miskick wide.
Five minutes from the break, Saints broke Luzern’s growing stranglehold and Millar strode forward but his stinging drive from 25 yards was just wide.
Luzern appealed strongly for a penalty of their own in the 50th minute as Lezcano threw himself theatrically down, but Lardot waved play on. The sight of Schneuwly, the scorer of the equaliser last week, springing from the bench after 54 minutes would not have eased the home side’s concerns.
And within four minutes the substitute had the tie back all square with a horrible goal as far as Saints were concerned.
A short corner gave Hyka space to fire a cross into a congested box. The home side could not get a decisive boot on the bobbling ball and it fell kindly for Schneuwly to poke home into the net through a forest of legs.