With their multi million Euro budget and average wage of 15,000 per week Eskisehirspor looked to press their superiority onto the minnows from Perth at every opportunity.
Saints manager Steve Lomas taking an understandably cautious approach the gave debuts to Patrick Creg and recent signing Gary Miller, although in the build up saw them lose club captain Dave Mackay to a virus and new striker Gregory Tade to injury hampering his options and emphasising the financial divide.
The opening half hour saw Eses fairly dominant in possession as St Johnstone stuck to a rigid formation as much to protect their stamina in the searing heat as their goal line. As the first half wore on and the Saints back line resolute in protecting Alan Mannus’ goal it looked like they would make to half time with their clean sheet intact but a wicked twist of bad fortune saw the Turks take the lead.
With their possession not creating many clear-cut chances, frustration saw the home side starting to hit shots from range and invariably troubling the ball boys more than the net, but it was a quick break away from a St Johnstone attack that saw Alper Potuk break the deadlock.
Just before half time a Chris Millar attack down the right broke down and goalkeeper Boffin was quick to mount the counter attack which ended with the Turkish international striking from 25 yds, a harmless hit which Mannus had covered but for a deflection which sent the ball spinning to the opposite corner and into the net.
As the second half started St Johnstone appeared to have belief that they could take something from the match and placed more emphasis on attacking the hosts and swing the tie in their favour.
With the match a more balanced affair things were looking good for the Saints in this tie but on 61 minutes another cruel break saw the deficit doubled as good work from Sari down the right turned Davidson inside and out before the ball deflected of the legs of Frazer Wright and into the back of the net passed a helpless Mannus.
It was a massive blow for St Johnstone but sensing that there was still something to be had from the match Lomas switched his mode from defence to attack and with the introduction of Hasselbaink and then May, the visitors started to threaten their hosts and forced corners and free kicks on the edge of the area but couldn’t get that one chance they craved until Murray Davidson burst through into the box and elected to pass instead of shoot, the match drifted away.
With the return leg on the 26th being in a more hospitable climate for St Johnstone they certainly don’t have much to fear and are not out of this tie by any means, but for two cruel twists of fate it could have been a lot tighter. One thing for sure is that the Perth men have nothing to fear and have every chance of overturning the two goal deficit.
Eskisehrispor: Boffin, Sari, Dede, Cetin, Diego, Gucer, Potuk, Zengin (Nuhiu 85), Kamara, Karadeniz (Tello 69) and Malecki (Eser 78).
St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, C. Davidson, McCracken, Wright, Cregg (Moon 85), M. Davidson, Adams (May 78), Millar, Higgins (Hasselbaink 69) and Craig.
Referee: Ante Vucemilovic-Simunovic, Croatia.