Champions League qualifier report: Shamrock Rovers 0 - 1 Breidablik

11.07.2023, Tallaght Stadium, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland, Champions League 1Q1L, Shamrock Rovers v Breidablik; Damir Muminovic of Breidablik celebrates scoring the opening goal 0 - 1

11.07.2023, Tallaght Stadium, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland, Champions League 1Q1L, Shamrock Rovers v Breidablik; Damir Muminovic of Breidablik celebrates scoring the opening goal 0 - 1 Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

Luke Jordan reporting from Tallaght Stadium

Shamrock Rovers have it all to do to salvage the tie after losing 1-0 to Icelandic champions Breidablik at Tallaght Stadium this evening.

Rovers made several changes after their 0-0 draw with Drogheda last Friday. Jack Byrne, Gary O’Neill, and Ronan Finn replaced Graham Burke, Darragh Nugent, and Conan Noonan in the starting line-up.

The significant team news for the Hoops was the inclusion of Byrne from the start. The Irish international had been a major doubt ahead of the game due to a knee injury last month.

Stephen Bradley, having scoped out their opposition before Tuesday night’s encounter, described the Icelandic side as challenging and home to dangerous players. This was evident in the first 45 minutes.

Rovers struggled to find a foothold in the first half, unable to cope with Breidablik's high press. Oskar Thorvalsson pushed his wingers high on the Rovers' back three, disrupting their usual rhythm.

An early warning came within two minutes when Leon Pohls passed to Gary O’Neill, who was unaware of the surrounding swarm of visiting players. They intercepted the pass, but luckily, the ball rolled back to the Rovers' keeper.

The home side had to deal with a barrage of corner kicks in the first half, nine in total. In the 11th minute, Faroese international Klaemint Olsen should have made it 1-0 when he connected with a Höskuldur Gunnlaugsson corner, but Pohls managed to block the header.

Rovers rarely created opportunities. Rory Gaffney had the best chance for the hosts when he latched onto a long pass by Byrne. One on one with Anton Einarsson, his effort was thwarted by the keeper.

The Icelandic champions scored just before half-time. After a quick free-kick taken by Gaffney broke down, Dan Cleary fouled Olsen outside the penalty area.

Centre-back Damir Muminović stepped up and struck the free kick with ferocity, sending the ball through the wall and into the net to make it 1-0, to the delight of the 65 traveling Icelandic fans.

Rovers tried to start the second half quickly and complained when a supposed handball by Muminović in the box after good work by Sean Kavanagh was ignored by the Cypriot referee.

Despite a decent start, the Icelandic champions regained control, and Rovers struggled to counter.

The introduction of Graham Burke midway through the second half added impetus to a stuttering Hoops side. He made off-the-ball runs and had a decent shot saved by Einarsson.

There was a moment of concern at the 75-minute mark when Byrne went down clutching his knee after a clash with the keeper but managed to recover and play on.

Breidablik's attacks in the second half were sporadic. Victor Earl Einarsson took a shot from distance, but it was turned away by Pohls.

Rovers needed inspiration, and they thought they had found it when Byrne picked out Kavanagh on the left. However, Kavanagh's shot went high and wide.

Kavanagh had another attempt moments later, this time hitting the target, but Einarsson was again equal to it. Despite their efforts in the final few minutes, Rovers couldn't score, and the visitors emerged victorious in the first leg.

This loss marks a disappointing start to their European campaign for Shamrock Rovers, who will need a much-improved performance next week to reclaim the tie, currently firmly in the grip of Breidablik.

Shamrock Rovers: Leon Pohls; Daniel Cleary, Sean Hoare, Pico; Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn (Richie Towell 72), Sean Kavanagh, Gary O'Neill, Markus Poom, Dylan Watts (Graham Burke 60); Rory Gaffney (Johnny Kenny 87).
Subs not used: Alan Mannus, Kieran Cruise, Lee Grace, Simon Power, Aaron Greene, Conan Noonan, Naj Razi.
Booked: Markus Poom (88), Gary O'Neill (90). 
Sent off: None. 

Breidablik: Anton Einarsson; Höskuldur Gunnlaugsson, Viktor Margeirsson, Damir Muminović (Arnór Aðalsteinsson 73), Andri Yeoman; Viktor Einarsson, Gísli Eyjólfsson, Olíver Sigurjónsson (Alexander Sigurðarson 73); Klæmint Andrasson Olsen, Kristinn Steindórsson (Davíð Ingvarsson 87), Jason Svanþórsson (Ágúst Hlynsson 67).
Subs not used: Brynjar Bragason, Ásgeir Orrason, Oliver Stefánsson, Anton Lúðvíksson, Stefán Sigurðarson. 
Booked: None. 
Sent off: None. 

Referee: Chrysovalantis Theouli (Cyprus)
Attendance: 7,216 Player of the Match: Viktor Einarsson (Breidablik)