Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Even though his team suffered their first defeat in 20 games, it was clear the pride that Shamrock Rovers Head Coach Stephen Bradley had in his team after their 2-0 loss to AC Milan in the Europa League qualifiers.
Bradley heralded his Hoops teams as “brave” in taking the game to the seven time European Cup winners and trusting in their expansive style of football against such quality opposition.
“I thought they were outstanding,” said Bradley about his team when speaking to the media pitchside after their one-legged second qualifying round tie. “I’m so proud of how the group attacked the game, how we played, we were brave. We played our way.”
The temptation may have been to sit deep and try and counter Milan on the break when they got the chance but Bradley’s men stuck to their style of play – pressing when their opponents had the ball and looking to beat MIlan's press with crisp passing – particularly through Jack Byrne (who had Stephen Kenny and Keith Andrews watching him from the empty stands in Tallaght).
“We had really good passages of play and we created really good chances from those passages. It wasn’t long balls into the box and hit and hope. We created them. We were stepping up – we were playing AC Milan. You need to be careful. Not many teams have played against that quality opposition and did what we did in terms of play and chances we created.
“We spoke about coming here tonight and playing the way we play. We can’t come away from that. We needed to trust the way we play and be brave and the players did that. We created three really good chances from playing good football against a top top team.”
It was Rovers’ first defeat at home since June 2019 but it was always going to be a tough task in Tallaght against the Rossoneri. “They showed us tremendous respect before and after the game. Paulo Maldini and the coaches were very complementary on how we play and what we do. I spoke to him in the tunnel and he was full of praise of the bravery that we showed.”
The opening goal came from Zlatan Ibrahimovic who Bradley described as “world class” and “one of the best around still even at his age. When the ball comes into him he is looking for runners and give him half a yard he puts it in the net.”
it is back to domestic action now for Rovers. The Hoops have an eight point lead at the top of the table in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division with seven games remaining and the first of those matches is against Waterford early next week and Bradley says his team will be well set up to seek three more points in their next outing.
“It is back to business on Monday against Waterford but the players will be ready. They’ve been excellent all season focussing on the task in hand and the next game.”