Cherry Orchard emerged victorious at a windy Ballymena Showgrounds on Tuesday evening, defeating Spaniards Espanyol 3-1.
The first half was pretty much a non event, a classy finish from Espanyol forward Gutierrez Nsang on six minutes aside. After a cross from the right, the Spaniard brought the ball under control before calmly side footing past Cherry Orchard goalkeeper Lee Doyle. The Dubliners launched an immediate search for an equaliser but missed a golden opportunity on 11 minutes when Troy Carey blasted wide from all of ten yards when marked in the box.
The Irish side came out stronger after the break and deservedly equalised on 43 minutes, man of the match Darragh McKay shot past Espanyol goalkeeper Fajardo Nunez after Thomas Illunga’s shot was parried by the Spanish stopper. The momentum swung in Orchard’s favour from this point onwards and they duly took the lead four minutes later through a penalty after a rash foul in the box. Full back Joshua Collins stepped up, slotting the ball to the keeper’s right after Nunez had dived the wrong way.
Darragh Markey was beginning to catch the eye of the crowd, and went on a mazy run on 66 minutes which should have ended in a goal, only for Sean Gilbert to shoot straight at Nunez after Markey had found him with an expert pass. Despite being under the cosh for long spells of the second half, Espanyol did threaten once more, with only a minute left on the clock substitutes Giner Pedrosa and Sierra Solis combined down the left hand side, only for the latter to scuff his shot wide of the post when primed to score.
The Spaniards were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal in added time when Cherry Orchard added some gloss to the scoreline through a Thomas Illunga strike courtesy of a bad misjudgement by Fajardo Nunez in the Espanyol goal.
Next up for victors Cherry Orchard is a trip to The Warren, Portstewart to face OC Blues, whilst Espanyol visit Seahaven, also in Portstewart, to take on Newcastle United.
CHERRY ORCHARD: Lee Doyle, Joshua Collins, Sean Gilbert, Craig Hanlon, Shane Whelan, Jordan Delmar, Troy Carey, Maxime Lougham, Darragh Markey, Thoms Llunga, Darragh McConville
ESPANYOL: Fajardo Nunez, Villar Valverde, Gutierrez Nsang, Enri Garcia, Sanchez Poves, Santaularia Soldevila, Caballe Canellas, Almirall Cortes, Pocurull Pons, Navarro Gomis, Bermejo Escribano.