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Resilient Ankara keep Leinster & Munster at bay

Ankara 0-0 Leinster & Munster
The Irish contenders failed to capitalise on Emrah Koçak's dismissal as the Turkish team held firm for a Group B point.

David Lacey of Leinster & Munster takes on Ankara's Serhat Çiçek
David Lacey of Leinster & Munster takes on Ankara's Serhat Çiçek ©Sportsfile

Ten-man Ankara held on for a point against Leinster & Munster in their UEFA Regions' Cup Group B opener despite playing the final 21 minutes with ten men.

Half-time substitute Emrah Koçak was dismissed for tripping David Lacey when the striker was clean through as the Irish representatives looked to make the breakthrough, having been frustrated by Ankara keeper Mustafa Köseci on several occasions. Both sides will hope to build on their point on Thursday, when Leinster & Munster meet Belgrade and Ankara face South Region Russia.

Eight members of the Leinster & Munster starting XI were in the Region I team which represented the Republic of Ireland two years ago in their finals opener, and it was one of them, Lacey, who lifted the first chance over the bar.

Ankara's Fatih Deniz scored five in six games in qualifying but he showed there is more than just goals in his armoury by crossing dangerously from the left on three occasions, the second of which was fired wide by Ismail Köse.

With both sides pushing forward at will, the first half made for an open affair, yet it was Gerry Smith's Leinster & Munster who were the team fashioning all the openings. Köseci was pressed into service three times before the break, his most eye-catching act being to tip over Ray Whelehan's effort after Lacey headed David O'Sullivan's delivery back across goal.

Despite the mercury nudging 25C the tempo remained high after the break, when Köseci again showcased his talents by clawing out Lacey's close-range header on the hour. Ankara were reduced to ten when Koçak saw red, yet despite constant Leinster & Munster pressure thereafter, Hameş Şentürk's men might have won it when the lively Deniz rifled over.