UEFA Europa Conference League Play-Off Round 1st Leg: LASK 1–1 St. Johnstone

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Wörthersee Stadion, 19th August 2021

LASK will have work to do in Scotland next Thursday after Mamoudou Karamoko’s second half penalty secured them a first leg draw against St. Johnstone. The visitors had taken an early lead via Chris Kane, and defended studiously throughout, until Thomas Goiginger was fouled in the area and the Frenchman put away the spot kick. Dominik Thalhammer’s side came so close to a last-minute winner via Keito Nakamura but the ball agonisingly came off the woodwork.

The Linzers lined up in Klagenfurt taking on a Scottish side for only the fourth time in club history, with the three previous fixtures against Dundee United and Partick Thistle all ending without a victory. Thalhammer’s side looked to change a bit of this history as he brought in Jan Boller and Andres Andrade into the defence to replace the injured Yannis Letard and absent Philipp Wiesinger – otherwise it was an unchanged midfield and forward line from Sunday’s defeat against Sturm Graz.

St. Johnstone, the surprise victors of both the 2021 Scottish FA Cup and Scottish League Cup, pushed Turkish giants Galatasaray all the way in their UEFA Europa League qualifier – so LASK knew they’d be in for a battle with the Perthshire outfit.

It was LASK who started the stronger with young German defender Boller almost making it a dream start and forced a good save from Zander Clark in the opening minute from close range. However, as the game progressed, the Scots came more and more into the game with threatening balls forward.

Their positivity was rewarded on the 17th minute as Glenn Middleton found space on the left wing and served a lovely ball into the six-yard box that Kane latched onto and trickled past Alex Schlager into the net. It was almost 2-0 a minute later, but only a fantastic fingertip save from Schlager denied Northern Ireland midfielder Ali McCann from outside the box.

The Linzers improved heading into the break, with their best effort coming via a thunderstrike from Boller that was tipped over the bar by Clark. The Saints goalkeeper was called into action once again two minutes later with Florian Flecker drilling a low effort at the near post.

As we entered the second half, the Scots looked to make an immediate impact as Callum Booth fizzed a shot at goal from the left only seconds after kick-off. Shortly after Florian Flecker tried to engineer an opportunity for his teammates, but no one was there to meet his cross.

Finally, on the hour mark, LASK had their opportunity to equalise! After Thomas Goiginger was fouled in the box, Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg pointed to the spot – Karamoko stepped up and smashed the penalty into the bottom corner past Clark to level the tie.

The “home” side continued their assault forward, as they continued to control the game, and only a brilliant block from Booth was able to stop Marvin Potzmann’s drilled volley in the area.

Deep into injury time, LASK came inches away from a winner via the head of Nakamura. After superb interplay from Goiginger and Potzmann, the Japanese winger couldn’t get enough on the ball as he leaped into the Carinthian sky. A minute later, Clark produced an excellent stop from Boller’s free-kick with the Linz side piling on the pressure but it wasn’t enough for that final breakthrough.

The two clubs will meet again at St. Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park next Thursday evening.

By Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga (@OtherBundesliga)

The line-ups:

LASK: Schlager; Boller, Andrade, Filipovic, Flecker (Potzmann 69‘), Grgic (Nakamura 83‘), Michorl (Hong 69‘), Renner, Balic (Schmidt 46‘), Karamoko (Raguz 69‘), Goiginger

Subs: Gebauer, Polster, Wild, Radulovic, Maresic

Goal: Karamoko (pen) 59‘

St. Johnstone: Clark; McCart, Kerr, Gordon, Rooney, Booth, Davidson, McCann, Kane (May 87’), O’Halloran (Hendry 90+3’), Middleton

Subs: Parish, Brown, Muller, Devine, Craig, Gilmour, Ballantyne, Northcott, Denham, Sinclair

Goal: Kane 17’