COLERAINE were cruelly denied a famous win in Europe as a stoppage time penalty from Mile Savkovic earned Spartak Subotica a draw in Novi Sad…
The Bannsiders were dealt a blow prior to kick-off with the news that a registration error meant that winger Josh Carson wasn’t able to take part. The club later confirmed that the former Linfield man will be available for the second leg.
In a quiet opening to the match, the home side almost took the inside 10 minutes as a clever flick found Mile Savkovic inside the area but his effort was gathered by Chris Johns.
It would be the same player who should have given Spartak the lead as a fantastic cross by Stefan Milosevic met the midfielder and his header trickled narrowly wide.
However the Bannsiders soaked up all that pressure and took the lead on 23 minutes. A long throw in caused confusion inside Spartak’s box and Darren McCauley stroked home for the visitors’ first European goal since 2003.
Sparta were enjoying the majority of possession and almost drew level as the dangerous Andrija Vukcevic received the ball and bore down goal, but his effort failed to hit the target.
Two minutes later, the home fans thought their side had scored as Vukcevic’s fantastic delivery almost found substitute Samuel Afum as Coleraine went into the break with the lead.
Spartak – who finished 4th in last season’s Serbian SuperLiga –would threaten on 55 minutes as neat possession released the run of Milosevic who dragged his shot harmlessly wide.
On the hour mark, Savkovic thought he had dragged his side level after being spotted by Noboru Shimuru but Chris Johns acrobatically denied the winger.
The Irish Cup holders were under severe pressure but almost doubled their lead on 72 minutes. A wonderful ball over the top picked out the run of striker Jamie McGonigle. The Northern Ireland under-21 international forced Peric into a smart save.
Defender Dejan Kerkez would have two late chances for the hosts but when it looked like they had ran out of time, they were awarded a penalty late into added time as Ian Parkhill was adjudged to have fouled inside the box. Savkovic made no mistake by sending Johns the wrong way.
SPARTAK SUBOTICA: Peric, Shimura, Kerkez, Djenic (Afum ’36mins), Milosevic (Torbica ’75 mins), Glavcic, Vukcevic, Savkovic, Cecaric (Duricin ’46 mins), Marcic, Calasan.
Subs Not Used: Lucic (GK), Jocic, Tekijaski, Dunderski.
COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan, Lyons (Kirk ’90 mins), McCauley (Harkin ’81 mins), Lowry, Bradley (McGonigle ’65 mins), McConaghie, Burns, O’Donnell, Parkhill, Traynor.
Subs Not Used: Doherty (GK), McLaughlin.