Stephen Walsh reports from Turner's Cross
Cork City have it all to do in Warsaw next Tuesday after a superb curling effort from Michal Kucharcyzh earned Legia Warsaw a 1-0 first leg win at Turners Cross.
The midfielder struck a spectacular effort from all of 30 yards from a free kick routine 11 minutes from the end to knock the wind out of City's sails following a disciplined defensive performance.
The home side made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Shamrock Rovers on Friday as Peter Cherrie replaced the injured Mark McNulty, while Damien Delaney, Barry McNamee and Jimmy Keohane came into the starting 11.
Legia, who are only a few weeks back into pre-season, showed rustiness at times in the opening half but also showed smooth, silky passing ability that had City in trouble at times.
The first half was a tight affair with McNamee having the best of the home chances as the game remained scoreless at the break.
The home side had chances in the second half but a moment of magic on 79 minutes decided the game and gave Legia the all-important away goal heading into the decider in Warsaw.
Champions League football returned to Cork for the first time since the Red Star Belgrade game back in 2006 where a Denis Behan own goal was the difference between the sides.
Much has changed since then in Turners Cross: all four sides are now in use for the crowd that was at capacity long before referee Radu Marian Petrescu blew the whistle to begin proceedings.
More importantly, the club is now owned by the supporters' trust Foras.
The game started in a cauldron of noise with Kasper Hamalainen heading wide for the visitors following Michael Kcharcyzk’s cross after only two and a bit minutes.
City though weren’t overawed by their Polish counterparts and playing with an energy that was missing last Friday when they drew 0-0 with Rovers.
Keohane, who was very energetic in the opening 20 minutes on the City wing, whipped in a dangerous ball for Karl Sheppard that was cleared for a corner.
City, with Delaney leading the line in place of Alan Bennett, were tight at the back and they were unlucky not to go ahead on 13 minutes when, following good closing-down of the Legia defence, McNamee intercepted.
Unfortunately, he was only to hit fresh air from 12 yards, and that allowed the Legia defence to get back and clear for a corner much to their relief.
City were on the front foot now and had appeals for a penalty turned down on 16 minutes when Keohane looked to be fouled, only for the referee to wave play on.
The visitors looked dangerous on the counter attack with Sebastian Szymanski having a free kick go over the bar on 20 minutes, followed by another shot over three minutes later from inside the box.
Two minutes into the second half, Delaney won a free header following a McNamee corner and the ball fell to Conor McCarthy only for the Legia defence to clear the ball.
Legia had a number of shots from distance but rarely troubled Cherrie with the people populating the Joe Delaney Stand in most danger of being hit by a wayward shot.
A ball over the top on 54 minutes found Cummins, who was still only getting up to speed with proceedings, and it showed when his low shot was blocked by Arkadiusz Malarz’s foot from inside the box.
Legia were coming more and more into the game now with Hamalaien firing over from close range. They were mainly shooting from distance, however, and rarely troubling Cherrie.
City, by contrast, were full of energy and Steven Beattie, an early substitute for the injured Conor McCarthy, fired narrowly wide from outside the box with just over 20 minutes left.
However as the game ticked on City got careless with possession and on one such turnover, Garry Buckley gave away a free kick, for which he was booked.
Up stepped Legia midfielder Krzysztof Maczynski to pass the ball to Kucharczyk who fired the ball home from 30 yards past the out stretched hand of Cherrie into the net on 79 minutes.
City brought on Kieran Sadlier to try and find an equaliser and he put a few dangerous balls into the box but nobody could get at the end of them, so it's advantage Legia by the slenderest of margins heading into the away leg.
Cork City: Peter Cherrie; Conor McCarthy (Steven Beattie 62), Sean McLoughlin, Damien Delaney, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack, Gearóid Morrissey (Graham Cummins 52); Jimmy Keohane, Garry Buckley, Barry McNamee (Kieran Sadlier 82); Karl Sheppard.
Subs not used: David Coffey, Danny Kane, Alan Bennett, Kieran Sadlier, Josh O’Hanlon.
Booked: Barry McNamee (40), Garry Buckley (77).
Legia Warsaw: Arkadiusz Malarz; William Remy, Inaki Astiz, Mateusz Wieteska; Marko Vvesovic, Cafu, Krzysztof Maczynski, Sebastian Szymanski (Domink Nagy 76), Michal Kucharczyk; Kasper Hamalaien (Sandro Kulenovic 82), Jose Kante (Adam Hlousek 76).
Subs not used: Radoslaw, Chris Philipps, Mateusz Zyro, Konrad Michalak.
Referee: Radu Marian Petrescu (Romania).
Attendance: 5,795 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Jimmy Keohane (Cork City).