Champions League Report: Shamrock Rovers 2 - 1 Slovan Bratislava (Slovan Bratislava win 3-2 on aggregate)Tue, Jul 13 2021
Seán O’Connor reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers on Tuesday evening despite a 2-1 win over Slovan Bratislava at Tallaght Stadium.
Despite a much-improved performance against the Slovakian Champions, Rovers lost the tie following Vladimir Weiss’ controversial 73rd minute strike.
Graham Burke got the hosts off to the perfect start fifteen minutes in, slotting his penalty after being fouled in the box.
Slovan threatened periodically thereafter, and the Hoops remained solid at the back, despite Richie Towell almost gifting Henty a goal.
Rovers began the second half excellently, resulting in Towell’s wonder strike on 65 minutes to level the tie. After Weiss’ strike, Rovers piled on the pressure for an equaliser.
Aaron Greene and Liam Scales went close late on, but it was not to be for the league champions, who now enter the Europa Conference League.
Coming into the game, Stephen Bradley made three changes following last week’s first-leg loss. Joey O’Brien, Danny Mandroiu and Burke returned into the starting eleven as Greene and Sean Hoare and Sean Gannon missed out.
Nigerian striker Ezekiel Henty had the first chance of the evening, but his effort proved no trouble for Alan Mannus, who kept the tie alive with his last-minute penalty save on Wednesday.
On five minutes, Richie Towell’s loose pass almost cost them the tie. Henty picked the ball up on the halfway line and galloped forward before shooting just wide, much to Towell’s relief.
But Rovers awoke from that near disaster, and took the lead after 15 minutes through Burke’s spot-kick.
A superb through ball from Gary O’Neill found the Irish international, who was then clipped in the box. Mario Zebec pointed straight to the spot and Burke coolly dispatched his penalty in the bottom right corner.
Slovan enjoyed a good spell after Burke's opener, as Henty continued to cause Roberto Lopes and Lee Grace all sorts of trouble.
The Slovaks smacked an effort off the crossbar before Mannus saved brilliantly from Henty’s header.
After the half hour mark, Rovers settled down and took control of possession after a frenetic ten minutes. Towell and O’Neill enjoyed more of the ball but struggled to thread it through to the front three.
Slovan threatened the hosts towards the end of the half, with a few corners and a Rataro header, but Rovers defended strongly and entered the half time break a goal up.
After a slow start to the second period, Liam Scales produced the first chance of the second half. Scales cut inside on the left wing and found Ronan Finn on the edge of the area, but the captain’s effort only stung the palms of Chovan.
That chance livened the crowd up in Dublin 24, and just moments later, they levelled the tie through new recruit Richie Towell.
After sustained pressure, Gaffney found Towell on the edge of the area. With one touch and a quick glance at goal, the 29-year-old fired the ball into the top corner to send a partisan home crowd into euphoria.
It was no more than Rovers deserved after an impressive showing against the Slovakian champions.
After levelling the tie, Rovers sat back while Slovan took better control of the contest. Dylan Watts replaced Gary O’Neill, who was lucky not to receive a second yellow just before.
But the Hoops were dealt a sucker punch six minutes after equalising. Lopes tumbled over on the edge of the area what looked like a clear foul before Slovakian international Vladimir Weiss picked up the ball and beat two men before firing past Mannus.
Tallaght Stadium erupted in a chorus of boos with the home fans feeling very hard done by Croatian referee Mario Zebec.
Rovers, now with no choice but to go for the third, upped the tempo and pressed higher up the pitch.
First, Lopes came inches away from an equaliser on 80 minutes, but Chovan brilliantly tipped it to safety.
Greene’s then went close with a header, but it was deflected just over them bar before Scales went close from the resulting corner.
It was not to be for the Hoops, however, as their huge pressure exerted on the Slovak champions was ultimately not enough on a pulsating night in the capital.
They will now enter the third round of the Europa Conference league, with the draw to be made next Monday.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Liam Scales, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes (C), Joey O’Brien (Sean Hoare, 80), Ronan Finn; Gary O’Neill (Dylan Watts 71), Richie Towell (Aaron Greene, 84); Danny Mandroiu, Rory Gaffney, Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls; Sean Kavanagh, Sean Gannon, Max Murphy, Conan Noonan, Aidomo Emakhu.
Booked: Danny Mandroiu (18) Gary O’Neill (45) Richie Towell (84)
Slovan Bratislava: Adrian Chovan; Vernon De Marco, Vasil Bozikov, Guram Kashia, Jurij Medvedev; Joeri De Kamps, Jaba Kankava, Vladimir Weiss (Alen Mustafic 90); Rafael Ratao (Jarormir Zmrhal, 82), Ezekiel Henty, David Hrncar.
Subs not used: Martin Trnovsky; Rabiu Ibrahim, Dejan Drazic, Myenty Abena, David Strelec, Lukas Pauschek, Filip Lichy, Kenan Bajric, Aleksandar Cavri
Booked: Ezekiel Henty (22) Guram Kashia (33) Joeri De Kamps (86)
Referee: Mario Zebec
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Richie Towell (Shamrock Rovers)