Uefa Champs Lge First Qual First Leg
FC Europa 2
Interim Saints boss Scott Ruscoe has admitted he was left disappointed by the manner of his side’s Champions League First Qualifying Round first leg defeat to FC Europa.
Scott Quigley’s wonder goal brought TNS level after the Gibraltan champions took an early lead, but Kike’s goal gave them another crucial away goal, meaning the Saints will need to score three times in Portugal this week to win the tie outright.
Ruscoe felt his side were below their normal high standards and need to improve if they are to take their place in the next round.
“Next week is going to be more difficult than we envisaged,” he said. “That wasn’t a true reflection of our play and our last season, ad all the good work we’ve put in in pre-season.
“I’m more disappointed than angry and I’ve told the players they haven’t reached the levels we’re used to, but we’re still in the tie. We’ll work hard in training this week and put things right that went wrong.
“For all of Europa’s good defensive work, I think they’re a team that we, on our day, can beat. There are positives from the game and I know the players can improve another 20-30 per cent.
“We didn’t pass the ball well, we looked nervous in possession. I knew they were good on the counter and we gave them possession twice and they scored twice.
“It just wasn’t our normal game. We normally have people running behind and creating, but the TNS I know and am used to, I didn’t see a lot of them.”
The visitors took a shock lead inside eight minutes when Alex Quillo tapped home six yards out from Toni Kike’s cross as Europa grabbed a vital away goal.
TNS thought they had a penalty when referee Barbeno Luca blew his whistle on 17 minutes, but it was to brandish a yellow card at Ryan Pryce for simulation when he went down under a challenge.
Saints levelled a minute before the break when Quigley showed firstly a superb piece of skill to flick the ball over his head but then the composure to smash home from 18 yards out with his right foot.
Quillo fired over the bar on 53 minutes in the best opening of the early second-half exchanges.
Kike restored Europa’s lead on 78 minutes when he found himself in oceans of space to curl home from 18 yards out after Liam Walker made statues of the home defence.
Ruscoe added: “That goal shows what Scott is all about and that’s why he started. He’ll get chances in the second leg and we’ll be better in the second leg.
“We can go away and beat people by two or three – I’m not concerned by that.
“There might be a new direction for the second leg, whether it be personnel changes or changes to how we do things. We’ll watch the game and work out why we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
TNS: Harrison, Spender, Saunders, Rawlinson, Routledge, Brobbel, Mullan (Fletcher), Cieslewicz (Darlington), Quigley (Draper), Edwards, Pryce. Subs: Wycherley, Seargeant, Hudson, Holland
Att – 1,148
See full story in the County Times