Roy Carroll was unable to repeat his Windsor Park penalty heroics last night, when a second half Sean Maguire spot-kick gave Cork City a single goal victory over Linfield.
The Northern Ireland star made his Linfield debut, just four days after returning from the European Championships in France, but not even the former Manchester United man could stop Cork from claiming a deserved 1-0 win.
The defeat means David Healy’s Linfield will need to produce a remarkable performance at Turner’s Cross next Thursday if they are to progress to the next round of the Europa League.
On a sticky Windsor Park pitch, a tense first half gave way to a one-sided second half, as John Caulfield’s men demonstrated a difference in fitness between the two clubs.
Cork had a chance to take the lead at Windsor Park inside the first three minutes, when former Coleraine man Stephen Dooley found the side netting from close range, after Linfield failed to deal with a corner-kick.
Linfield’s best chances of the first half came courtesy of the left boot of former Cork City man Ross Gaynor.
His set-pieces were a constant thorn in the side of his old team. In the 17th minute, his cheeky free-kick tipped over the bar by Cork goalkeeper Mark McNulty.
In the 22nd minute, Gaynor’s wicked delivery created a golden opportunity for youngster Paul Smyth.
The in-swinging corner-kick was flicked on at the near post by Mark Haughey, only for young Smyth’s back post header to loop over the bar, when a goal looked inevitable.
While chances were few and far between, Cork had more of the ball in the second half, probing the Linfield defence were possible.
Linfield gifted Cork a golden opportunity in the 63rd minute when midfielder Stephen Lowry fouled his former Coleraine teammate Dooley, inside the penalty box.
With Dooley trying to reach the byline, Lowry brought him to ground with a mistimed tacked.
Carroll has saved more than his fair share of penalties throughout his career, but he could do nothing to stop Sean Maguire’s confident spot-kick.
Lowry made amends in the 71st minute when he headed Kenny Browne’s goalbound header off-the-line, after Kevin O’Connor’s corner-kick caused havoc inside the Linfield area.
O’Connor had a chance of his own to double Cork City’s advantage in the 78th minute after Linfield failed to clear a set-piece and O’Connor’s 12-yard half-volley was pushed away by an alert Carroll. The result means the Blues have a job on their hands.
Linfield: Carroll; Reece Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Quinn; Miller (R. Clarke 85), Lowry, Mulgrew (Kee 56), Gaynor; Smyth (Burns 72), Waterworth
Subs: Deane, McLellan, M. Clarke, Murray
Cork City: McNulty, Bennett, Bolger, Beattie, Dooley, O’Connor, G. Morrissey, Sheppard (D. Morrissey HT), Browne, Maguire (Healy 89), Buckley ( O’Sullivan 60)
Subs: Coffey, Holohan, McSweeney, O’Sullivan, Turner
Ref: Bart Vertenten (Belgium)