Derry City 0 Riga FC 2
(Ramos 41, Filipov 68)
Derry City’s hopes of progressing to the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League suffered a blow at Brandywell, with Latvia’s Riga FC claiming a comfortable first leg victory.
And making matters worse for the Candystripes was the dismissal of winger Mattie Smith, following an altercation with Riga’s Antero Soisalo.
To be fair, the well-organised visitors deserved their victory after scoring goals either side of half-time.
Well-organised and technically superior, Riga controlled play after the dismissal and Ruaidhri Higgins’ side will do well to overcome their opponents next week in Latvia.
Will Patching and Joe Thomson were heavily involved in the action in the first half, but Riga goalkeeper Purins Nils Toms was never seriously challenged.
Derry keeper Brian Maher did well to block a shot from striker Oleksandr Filippov in the 21st minute while a long-range effort from Derry’s Jamie McGonigle was easily dealt with by the Riga keeper.
Five minutes before the break the home side were surprised by what seemed like a very weak goal.
While many observers felt the ball went out of play at the near post, Filippov kept it in play before passing to the back post where Gabriel Ramos forced it in.
And just before the break, Patching got the best of goalkeeper Toms who fired the free-kick from his goal as Derry tried to end the first half on a high.
That said, the home side could have equalized in the opening minutes of the second half, but Mattie Smith failed to place his header on Cameron McJannet’s superb cross.
Derry introduced new signing Ryan Graydon to the home assist in the 51st minute and the debutant could have made a name for himself late in the game, but his shot failed to hit the target when he went wide. forward from midfield.
Another free patching grazed the crossbar as the home side began to force the problem, Riga content to keep control of the ball, protecting their slim advantage.
On the hour mark, Derry lost the services of winger, Mattie Smith, in what appeared to be a harmless challenge against Antero Soisalo, with the referee’s assistant reporting the incident to the Icelandic referee who produces a red card.
And in the 68th minute, Derry’s hopes of progressing in Europe for the first time since 2014 were dashed.
Ramos, who scored the opening goal, broke down the right flank and his precise cut found Filippov who happily flicked the ball over the goal line.
City of Derry: Maher; Boyce (Graydon, 51), S. McEleney, Toal, McJannet; Thomson, Dummigan, P. McEleney; patch; McGonigle (Akintunde, 74) Smith.
FC Riga: Toms; Raivis, Cernomordijs (Korotkovs, 56), Muzinga; Vakulko, Petsos; Ramos Da Penha, Aurelio, (Peterson, 80), Soisalo (Yurchenko, 78); Philippov.
Arbitrator: T. Vihjalmur (Iceland).