Santos turned recent tradition on its head on Saturday. Normally they get well ahead, go into freefall then come out on top after a nail-biting last ten minutes in a high scoring game.
Last Saturday they gifted their opponents two early goals, responded, went into free fall, gave White City a third, then had a man sent off all in the first 30 minutes.
As the game began Paul Canavan’s wicked corner was fumbled by young Santos keeper Archer into his own net.
Santos’ three central defenders were hesitant while McCarthy was marked by two men and young Tom Kennedy was muscled out of it.
From a quick free Santos were caught cold and McQuillan had an easy task to score.
Santos were reeling but McCormack and Hughes at the back adopted a safety first approach and Santos clawed their way back.
The predatory McCarthy glanced a header into the net to help Santos back into the tie.
McCarthy then ran riot but could not get the elusive goal though he did hook a great effort over the crossbar from a towering Hughes header.
A beautiful 40-yard pass over McNulty was brilliantly controlled by winger Carroll and placed right on to the head of Cowie to head home.
Minutes later a long ball again tore Santos apart and Lopes in desperation handled and received a red card.
Santos, relentlessly driven by the inspirational Joseph McGeehan, refused to wilt.
A superb piece of passing saw Nolan go short to young Kennedy and he laid in a brilliant short pass to McCarthy and the big striker finished clinically.
Michael Kane came on to stiffen the backline while McNulty moved to left back to allow the more physical Rob Clarke to support McCarthy up front.
Nolan now adopted a holding role and McGeehan and Brady wrested midfield control.
Ciobhan Mulholland entered the game for Clarke in midfield and Brady advanced forward.
The youngster combined brilliant control with simple, accurate passing, but more, he dominated the City maestro. Santos were oozing menace and from McGeehan’s inch perfect pass he hurtled in courageously to head home in a packed goalmouth.
Self belief oozed from every Santos player.
Tommy McNulty, advanced up the left, cut inside and delivered the most exquisite of shots, wind assisted, to the far corner of the net.
Breen, in goals, was barking out instructions and organising his defence expertly.
He found time to make two smart saves to break City’s resolve but, Santos were never going to surrender this lead and ran out worthy winners.
“It looked like a case of déjà vu on Saturday but the tremendous resilience of this side shows they won’t be beaten,” said manager McGeehan.
“The emergence of young Kennedy and now Ciobhan Mulhollan with his great passing skills means we can change things, which is a manager’s dream, especially after the poor tactical decision I made prior to this game.”
Santos have no fixture this weekend as they seek a friendly before back to back games against fellow newcomers Union Lusa in early March.