Champions League Report: Vikingur Reykjavik 0 - 0 Shamrock Rovers

Leon Pöhls kept a clean sheet in Reykjavik on Tuesday night

Leon Pöhls kept a clean sheet in Reykjavik on Tuesday night Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

A disciplined defensive Shamrock Rovers performance earned the Hoops a valuable scoreless away draw against Vikingur in their Champions League first qualifying round first leg in Víkingsvöllur in Iceland. 

It wasn’t quite a backs-to-the-wall performance but their set piece defending played a crucial part in the result.

They faced 17 corners and had to play the last ten minutes plus injury time with ten men after Darragh Nugent picked up a harsh second yellow card and received his marching orders.

It was Rovers’ first clean sheet in Europe since their 0-0 draw with Djurgarden in the 2022/23 Europa Conference League group stages. A win in the second leg back in Tallaght and it would mean the Hoops would be just a victory across one more tie away from a return to group stage football once again.

Ahead of the game Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley had spoken about the danger that Vikingur would bring with crosses and his side dealt with them admirably throughout the game.

The Icelandic champions racked up six first half corners and it was from one in the tenth minute that they went closest to scoring. Pablo Punyed swung it left footed from the right causing confusion in the Rovers box. 

Jon Gudni Fjoluson flicked his header goalwards and Leon Pöhls pulled off a brilliant save to push the ball onto his right hand post.

That was really the only action that Pöhls was called in to do in the opening half. On the artificial surface, Rovers did change from their usual system asking the goalkeeper to take his kick outs long rather than play out from the box.

Danijel Dejan Djuric’s shot fizzed by the Rovers goal on another first half occasion but for all their pressure the home side couldn’t find an opening in the first half – registering just one shot and that was off target. The Hoops were happy enough to sit off and keep men behind the ball.

Bradley had left his own wide attacking threat of Neil Farrugia and Darragh Burns on the bench. The Hoops failed to trouble Ingvar Jónsson in opposition goal the first half but a scoreless draw to take back to Tallaght was a prize they were looking for.

The second half continued in the same manner with Rovers getting decisive touches to crosses when required but coughing up plenty of corners. Vikingur played them in on the goalkeeper but again the Hoops were physically strong enough to get the ball clear.

Bradley brought Johnny Kenny off the bench in the final quarter in place of Aaron Greene. In the 73rd minute he spun his man on halfway and drove at the Vikingur goal with his shot just going by the post.

A double Hoops change straight after with Farrugia and Burns coming on meant Rovers added to their attacking options in the final period of the game. However, Nugent’s sending off meant those fresh legs were deployed more at the back as they looked to hold on to their cleansheet. 

Pöhls went in the book with five minutes to go for time wasting as Rovers looked to run the clock down. Kenny ran through from his own half, outpacing the defence, but lifted his effort over the bar with the goalkeeper advancing.

In the last minute Djuric lifted a free kick up and over the Rovers wall with the ball just dropping beyond the post. Both Ari Sigurpálsson and Erlingur Agnarsson flashed headers just wide in injury time but the Hoops hung on for the draw ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg at home in Tallaght.

Vikingur Reykjavik: Ingvar Jónsson; Karl Fridleifur Gunnarsson, Peter Ekroth, Gunnar Vatnhamar, Jon Gudni Fjoluson; Pablo Punyed (Viktor Örlygur Andrason. 81); Helgi Gudjonsson (Ari Sigurpálsson 66), Danijel Dejan Djuric; Erlingur Agnarsson, Nikolaj Hansen (Matthías Vilhjálmsson 66), Valdimar Thór Ingimundarson (Gísli Gottskálk Þórðarson 81).
Subs not used: Jochum Magnússon, Pálmi Rafn Arinbjörnsson, Sveinn Gísli Þorkelsson, Davíd Örn Atlason, Halldor Smari Sigurdsson, Aron Elís Thrándarson

Booked: Karl Fridleifur Gunnarsson (55).

Shamrock Rovers: Léon Pöhls; Daniel Cleary, Pico Lopes ©, Seán Hoare; Trevor Clarke (Neil Farrugia 73), Gary O'Neill, Dylan Watts (Richard Towell 90+3), Joshua Honohan; Darragh Nugent; Jack Byrne (Darragh Burns 74), Aaron Greene (Johnny Kenny 66).
Subs not used: Lee Steacy, Toms Leitis, Cory O'Sullivan, Seán Kavanagh, John O'Sullivan, Cian Barrett, Conan Noonan.
Booked: Darragh Nugent (51 and 80), Léon Pöhls (85), Sean Hoare (90+7)
Sent off: Darragh Nugent (80)

Referee: Sigurd Kringstad (Norway) 
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate) Player of the Match: Léon Pöhls (Shamrock Rovers)