Glentoran’s European dream was shattered by superb Slovakian-outfit MSK Zilina in an entertaining Europa League clash at The Oval.
Professional outfit Zilina won 4-1, making light-work of a Glentoran side that battled bravely despite lacking a number of central figures.
This was a one-sided affair, but Glentoran should be commended for their brave determination not to be overwhelmed. No doubt, Conor McMenamin’s 66th minute goal will live long in the memory.
Although Glentoran enjoyed a bright opening, once the Slovakian side found their feet a goal became inevitable.
The hugely-impressive Cameroon-born right-back Ernest Mabouka was afforded too much space on the flank.
He flighted a marvellous ball into box on the 13th minute that Matej Jelic turned into the net with an athletic scissor kick from inside the area.
Zilina were relentless in their pursuit of a second goal. Corner-kick followed corner-kick as the East Belfast men found themselves pinned back.
Calum Birney conceded a free-kick and a yellow card in the 20th minute when he fouled captain Viktor Pecovsky, in a vain attempt to halt Zilnai’s advances.
Jakub Paur stepped up and produced one of the finest free-kicks the famous old East Belfast venue had ever seen. His 25-yard effort arrowed into the top right-corner of the net, giving a forlorn Morris no chance.
In the 36th minute débutante Conor McMenamin latched onto a loose Zilina pass, before using his lightening pace to evade the visitors defence. His low shot was turned past the post by Zilina goalkeeper Milos Volesak.
On the hour mark, the Irish Cup holders failed to clear a Zilina corner-kick, and eventually a Lukas Cmelik shot deflected into the net off the unfortunate Calum Birney.
At 3-0, Glentoran fans must have feared the worse but the men in right, black and green put in a spirted display in the final 30 minutes of the game.
The Glentoran faithful got their reward in the 66th minute when McCaffrey found McMenamin.
McMenamin sped away from the Zilina defence, but this time he made no mistake with the finish. His low effort was powerful enough to beat Volesak and found the net.
Zilinis got a fourth in the 81st minute. Right-back Mabouka burst into the box before cutting the ball across the front of goal.
The outstretched Marcus Kane slide in, only to see the ball deflect of his leg and bounce past Morris.