Matty Smith sees red as Derry City face a difficult Europa Conference task against FC Riga

Derry City will need to do some magic in the Baltics next week if their European adventure is to avoid a fifth straight home defeat by Latvian side Riga FC at the first hurdle.

City manager Rúaidhrí Higgins commented ahead of the game that his best memories of playing Derry were those evenings in Europe, but his managerial debut in UEFA competitions was far from memorable, a wicked city punctuated by a sloppy and mellow conceded goal nullified was second best in each half in a race they hardly contested.

Derry had a much stronger European pedigree than Riga, a club only formed eight years ago, but the visitors had far more nous, a greater threat and a deadlier attitude in front of goal, their exotic side summed up by the fact that the first goal because this Latvian club, run by a Croatian, was founded by a Ukrainian and scored by a Brazilian.

Slovak side Ružomberok will almost certainly win this duel, having won their first leg against Lithuanian opponents, but unless Derry can somehow improve on this very poor performance and show a tremendous performance in Riga next Thursday, Derry’s interest could end after that a round – and in the second leg they will be without midfield talisman Matty Smith, who is now suspended after being sent off in the second half.

Striker Jamie McGonigle was the source of goals for City this season but Riga had clearly identified him as a threat as he was being pursued and blocked at every moment by tall defender Antonijs Cermomordijs, crowned by Latvia at senior level and one of five senior internationals in Latvia The starting XI, including ex-Dundalk man and Latvian regular Raivis Jurkovskis, return to Ireland after his spell at Oriel Park.

With McGonigle tied up, Derry tried to set standards to open Riga, but everything dead-ball expert Will Patching tried failed to resolve.


July 7, 2022; Derry City’s Matty Smith is shown a red card by referee Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson during the first leg of the 2022/23 UEFA Europa Conference League First Qualifying Round between Derry City and Riga at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, Derry. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

He floated in a free kick in the 15th minute but Shane McEleney’s header was easily handled by keeper Nils Purins and a minute later a Patching free kick was an easy save for the keeper.

Riga regained their footing in a thrilling game by the 20-minute mark, Oleksandr Filippov missing his shot when it should have been.

Derry had nothing convincing up front and were caught by a counterattack four minutes before half-time, a cross from Ukraine striker Filippov not cleared by the defense and well-travelled Brazilian Gabriel Ramos, who has previously played in Georgia and Belarus before landing in Latvia, he shot home.

Forced into a change early in the second half when debutant Ryan Graydon replaced the injured Ronan Boyce, Derry had occasional good moments but lacked conviction.

And their defense was caught after 67 minutes as Riga doubled their lead, with another Brazilian, Douglas Aurelio, breaking through his guard and delivering a cross that Filippov converted easily.

A bad night for Derry was made worse in the 67th minute when Smith was sent off for his second yellow card after a touchline collision with Muzinga Ngonda. Derry manager Alan Reynolds was shown a yellow card over his protests.

After a frustrating 75 minutes, striker McGonigle was called ashore but saving that game was beyond his replacement, James Akintunde, Derry offered little more than a patching free-kick which went on target but was saved by the keeper.

Riga were far more likely to score in the last 10 minutes as City were clearly beaten and Vladen Yurchenko hit the crossbar in stoppage time, although that night’s 2-0 win was and should have been enough for the Latvians to calm down in the second round.

Derry City: mahar Boyce (Graydon 51), S. McEleney, Toal, McJannet; P. McEleney, Dummigan; Smith, Thomson, Patchen; McGonigle (Akintunde 74).

FC Riga: purines; Jurkovskis, Cermomordijs (Korotkovs 56), Bergqvist, Ngonda; Ramos, Vakulko, Petsos, Aurelio (Petersons 81); Soisalo (Yurchenko 76); Filippov.

Referee: V Torrarinsson (Iceland). Matty Smith sees red as Derry City face a difficult Europa Conference task against FC Riga

Fry Electronics Team

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