Shamrock Rovers win on the night, but lose on aggregate after excellent CL display

Shamrock Rovers win on the night, but lose on aggregate after excellent CL display

By Daire Walsh

Despite securing a 2-1 victory at the Tallaght Stadium this evening, Shamrock Rovers saw their UEFA Champions League journey coming to an end at the expense of Slovakia’s Slovan Bratislava.

The first qualifying round in European football’s top-tier competition, the Hoops threatened an upset when Graham Burke and Richie Towell (his first for the club) bagged goals in either half.

Gary ONeill takes a tumble

Gary O'Neill takes a tumble Photo by George Kelly

Yet Slovan eventually responded with a Vladimír Weiss finish on 72 minutes and after losing out 3-2 on aggregate in this tie, Stephen Bradley’s men will now switch to the third qualifying round of the newly-created Europa Conference League.

Following their 2-0 defeat in the Slovak capital last Wednesday, the Hoops began this contest with clear intent and edged in front on 16 minutes.

Racing onto a delicious through-ball from Gary O’Neill, Burke was upended in the area by Slovan skipper Vasil Bozhikov.

The former Preston North end star comfortably dispatched the resulting penalty and consequently offered his side an advantage on the night.

Shamrock Rovers Rory Gaffney controls the ball

Shamrock Rovers’ Rory Gaffney controls the ball Photo by George Kelly

It also cut their aggregate deficit in half as the gauntlet was thrown down to the much-fancied Slovan.

While Alan Mannus was forced into a superb double save moments later, the Hoops were full value for their 1-0 interval cushion.

Rovers continued to press on the resumption and after being picked out in a central position by former Salford City team-mate Rory Gaffney on 64 minutes, Towell unleashed an unstoppable strike from distance into the top left-hand corner.

This suddenly placed Rovers on the cusp of reaching the second qualifying round, but the Inchicore man’s screamer ultimately awoke Slovan from their slumber.

Although there was a suspicion of a foul on Roberto Lopes with 18 minutes of normal time remaining, play was waved on long enough for Weiss (son to the Slovan manager of the same name) to angle a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of Mannus’ net.

Nevertheless, the abolition of away goals meant Rovers just needed one big moment to keep this tie alive.

Crumlin native Lopes and Kilnamanagh’s Aaron Greene both went close in the closing moments, but a spirited Hoops fell just short in the end.

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