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St Johnstone see Europa League hopes come to an end as Galatasaray go through

St Johnstone v Celtic – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – McDiarmid Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

St Johnstone’s Europa League hopes ended with a 4-2 defeat by Galatasaray at McDiarmid Park for a 5-3 aggregate win for the visitors.

Scotland’s domestic double cup winners had drawn 1-1 with the visitors in the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round in Istanbul last week.

Striker Mbaye Diagne dampened the enthusiasm of the home fans when he put the visitors ahead on the half-hour mark before Saints levelled seven minutes later when keeper Ismail Cipe, under pressure from striker Chris Kane, was unable to keep the ball from crossing the line.

There was to be no continuation of the Saints fairytale from last season as Kerem Akturkoglu restored Galatasaray’s lead in the 63rd minute with a fine finish before Sofiane Feghouli drove in a third with substitute Emre Kilinc making it 4-1 in added time before Michael O’Halloran pulled a goal back.

Callum Davidson’s men drop into the Conference League with a tie against LASK of Austria or Serbian side Vojvodina in the play-off.

It had been a long time since so many St Johnstone supporters, denied the chance to witness their historic Scottish Cup and League Cup final wins last season due to covid restrictions, had packed out their own stadium although it was not quite full.

The home fans were glad to see captain Jason Kerr, who scored in the first leg from the spot, had recovered from a knock to take his place in defence while James Brown, Murray Davidson, O’Halloran and Kane returned.

St Johnstone tried to force the pace from the kick-off but in the fifth minute it was home keeper Zander Clark who made the first real save of the game, keeping hold of a 20-yard drive from Sofiane Feghouli before gathering captain Arda Turan’s tame shot from 14 yards.

However, on the half hour, Fatih Terim’s side struck when Kerem Akturkoglu sent the lanky Diagne racing through the middle and he outpaced defender Jamie McCart before slipping the ball through Clark’s legs.

But it should have been no surprise that Saints soon responded. Ali McCann’s corner from the right was headed back towards goal by Kerr and as Kane jousted with Cipe, the ball looped over the line, the goal given despite Patrick van Aanholt’s despairing clearance.

An open encounter continued after the break and the visitors forged ahead again with a well-worked goal when Akturkoglu took a pass from Turan and raced on before beating Clark from eight yards.

Davidson brought on Stevie May and Shaun Rooney for Kane and Brown but they the tie slipped further away in the 70th minute when Feghouli drilled a shot low past Clark and into the corner of the net.

In the second of four added minutes, Kilinc took advantage of a mix-up in the St Johnstone box to hammer the ball in from close range before O’Halloran scrambled in a consolation for the home side.