Another famous European night for St Johnstone has perfectly set-up the highest stakes one-off match in the Perth club’s history – that would be worth more money than winning the Premiership.
Chris Kane’s first half goal in Klagenfurt ensured that any type of victory at McDiarmid Park will secure a place in the Europa Conference League group stage – and bring with it at a £3 million reward.
Although there was frustration in passing up a couple of great opportunities to add to their lead and conceding a goal from a penalty, Callum Davidson was full of praise for his Saints heroes once again.
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) August 19, 2021
And he made no attempt to downplay the magnitude of next week’s second leg.
“This will be as big a game as this club has ever faced,” said Davidson.
“If you are talking financially then you get a bigger reward than you would for winning the league.
“If I’m honest I just want to get through and for the players to get the accolades and the achievement they deserve.”
Our game plan was to counter
He added: “I was delighted with the overall performance, chances created. I thought we started well and got a goal ahead.
“We maybe sat off a little bit after that. The second half they had a lot of possession but our game plan was to counter.
“We had three guys up front who carried a lot of threat and pace.
“For me the boys carried out the game plan to perfection. On another day if we hadn’t given away the penalty we might have got the victory.
“It’s 1-1 and if you asked me if I’d take a draw before the game then I’d snap your hand off.”
Saints’ goal was a carbon copy of Kane’s in the Scottish Cup semi-final against St Mirren last season.
“It was something we’d worked on,” said Davidson.
“Michael’s (O’Halloran) run, we worked on that and talked about it. It was a great ball flashed across the goal and we ask Chris to be in the middle of the goal which he was to finish it off.
“I’m a little bit gutted that we missed the chance before we conceded the penalty – it was a brilliant run by Michael.
“We asked him to drive inside and commit players. He did that and if you ask anyone in the team who would put it in the back of the net then it would be Glenn but unfortunately he took a bad touch.
“We conceded after that but we hung in for the draw.
“It’s a phenomenal result. The draw in Galatasaray was against 10 men. This was 11 v 11 and this team have pedigree in Europe.
“We stood toe to toe with them and played some right good football.
“It could be better but that’s just me being critical. Hopefully we get back to McDiarmid and get the support we got last week.
“It’s massive financially and the achievement for the players to try and win the tie – we have put ourselves in a great position to do something special again.
“We could have conceded in the last few minutes and that would have left a bitter taste.
“We hung in and it’s going to be a massive occasion next week.”
A great chance for St. Johnstone to double their lead! 😮
Glenn Middleton just couldn't get the ball under control to get the shot off 😬 pic.twitter.com/35O4Uzje7A
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) August 19, 2021
LASK manager Dominik Thalhammer said: “Our performance in the first half was very poor today.
“The first five minutes we played with the right amount of pressure and activity, but afterwards we became very passive.
“That was also the reason why we conceded the goal in the 17th minute. In the second half we finally found our rhythm, got better and better with every minute and found some promising opportunities to score the winner in the final minutes.
“Everything’s possible in the return leg now. But one thing’s for certain – we need to step up our game.”