Glentoran edge past Cliftonville in Irish Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out thriller
Glentoran will take on Ballymena United in Friday night’s Irish Cup final after they saw off Cliftonville 7-6 on penalties in an enthralling semi-final at Windsor Park last night.
Paddy McLaughlin’s side made a bright start to the game but they took the lead in fortuitous circumstances as Patrick McClean attempted clearance ended up in his own net just past the quarter hour mark.
Glentoran came back strongly though and finally got their reward on 36 minutes as Robbie McDaid scored another cup goal.
Both sides had chances to win the game but a mixture of poor finishing, good defending and the woodwork meant this second semi-final was to be decided by penalties as well.
Keith Cowan and Elvio Van Overbeek missed for the Glens with Ryan Curran and Conor McMenamin doing the same for the Reds to take it to sudden death.
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Marcus Kane slotted home the ninth penalty for Mick McDermott’s side before veteran keeper Elliott Morris produced a great save to deny Conor McDermott and secure Glentoran’s place in the final.
Cliftonville and Glentoran showed their intentions from the first whistle as they made a blistering start to the game.
Inside the first minute Navid Nasseri stung Richard Brush’s palms with a shot from a tight angle.
Two minutes later a swift break at the other end saw Conor McMenamin cross from Chris Curran, but his goal-bound shot was superbly cleared off the line by McClean.
But the big defender had a moment to forget with 16 minutes on the clock as he but through his own net.
McMenamin weaved his magic down the left again before seemingly putting it on a plate for Joe Gormley, but he uncharateristically fluffed his lines from a yard out.
McClean though, attempting to clear the loose ball, could only divert the ball into his own net to give the Reds the lead.
Cliftonville were standing firm at the other end as the ball bounced around their penalty area Conor McDermott produced a great block to deny Nasseri, before Paul O’Neill lashed the loose ball wide.
But there was nothing they could do as the Glens drew themselves level nine minutes before the break.
Robbie McDaid latched on to a loose ball ten yards out and fired low past the helpless Brush.
Into the second half and McDaid glanced a header past the post as the Glens pushed to get their noses in front.
Some silky wing play from Chris Curran create an opening for Michael McCrudden, but his shot was deflected wide of the target before the hour mark.
McMenamin then got his shot away from a tight angle, but Morris stood up big to beat it away.
Glentoran introduced Ciaran O’Connor from the bench and he drew a good save out of Brush with 14 minutes to go.
With six minutes to go the Glens almost snatched what would surely have been the winner as Joe Crowe picked out McDaid’s run with a superb through ball, the striker’s header looped over Brush but cannoned back off the post.
Remarkably they spurned another big chance as they game headed towards full time as Keith Cowan headed inches wide from O’Connor’s centre.
At the other end Curran couldn’t keep his shot down as the ball broke to him inside the box.
The woodwork came to Glentoran’s rescue again as the game moved into extra time as Marcus Kane’s looping header from McClean’s free kick crashed of the bar with Brush scrambling.
Back came Cliftonville on 96 minutes as Ryan Curran weaved his way past four Glens’ defenders before teeing up Gormley, but yet again the ace marksman failed to find the target.
Ronan Doherty then had an effort parried away by Morris as both teams searched for the winner.
Into the second period and McMenamin fizzed a shot across the face of goal on 111 minutes.
Glentoran: Morris, Kane, Gallagher (O’Connor, 76), McDaid, McClean, Nasseri, Crowe, O’Neill (Frazer, 65), Cowan, Van Overbeek, Donnelly.
Subs (not used): Peers, Smith, Gordon, Antolovic, McGarvey.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Curran, McCrudden (Harney, 88), Bagnall, Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin, Donnelly.
Subs (not used): Dunne, Ives, Harkin, Foster, Rocks, McCurry.
Referee: Ian McNabb.