The New Saints’ Champions League campaign came to an abrubt end in Sweden on Wednesday night as they lost at the Olympiastadion in Helsingborg.
Following their goalless draw and highly impressive performance at Park Hall last week, The New Saints travelled to Sweden confident of getting a result, but it was always going to be difficult considering Welsh clubs’ poor record in European away matches.
And Craig Harrison’s team were behind after just eight minutes. An inswinging corner from the right was met by centre back, Walid Atta, who beat Steve Evans at the back post and headed into the net.
10 minutes later following good play down the right, a low cross found its way into the New Saints’ six yard box which Paul Harrison and Simon Spender failed to deal with, allowing Thomas Sorum to tap into an empty net to double the home team’s advantage.
The New Saints had a couple of chances in the first half, with Craig Jones impressing on occasions.
When Jones went on a mazy run infield, beat three defenders and fed the ball into Greg Draper in the penalty box, the New Zealander’s shot failed to hit the target.
The New Saints were more attacking in the second half with wingers Craig Jones and Chris Jones causing problems to Helsingborgs IF, who seemed content to sit back and hit the visitors on the break.
But too often the final ball was disappointing for the New Saints, with Chris Jones guilty of wasting several opportunities when in dangerous positions.
Helsingborgs IF still looked dangerous when they attacked with the shaky New Saints defence creaking against quicker and more technically superior opposition, as a perfect cross into the box from the right was met by youngster Alfred Finnbogason who’s header clipped the crossbar.
Ryan Fraughan came on late in the game for his first appearance in Europe and twice he cut in from the right and let fly with left footed shots – a trademark of his – but his efforts failed to find the back of the net.
And with the New Saints throwing men forward in search of a late comeback, it was inevitable that Helsingborgs IF would break free.
When the Saints lost the ball in midfield with just a minute to go, May Mahlangu carried the ball thirty yards before laying it off to Barzilian Alvaro Santos at the edge of the box who’s first time curling effort found the far corner of the net giving Paul Harrison no chance and sealing a comfortable win for Helsingborgs IF.