Date: 7 p.m. July 27, 2011
Solvi Ottesen 5' -
Michael O’Neill sent a five man midfield into the fray with Dean Kelly filling a spot wide on the right of midfield and Gary Twigg operating as a lone striker, but hopes of frustrating Copenhagen were dashed within five minutes.
Craig Sives had escaped an ill advised dalliance on the ball in the opening moments but shortly afterwards a ball from the right by full back Pierre Bengtsson was headed powerfully into the top corner of Ryan Thompson’s net by fellow defender Solvi Ottesen.
Rovers might have wilted in the face of such early misfortune but they gathered themselves superbly and quickly established a solid foothold in the game. Conor McCormack epitomised the away sides conviction with a furiously energetic performance in central midfield while both Stephen Rice and Ronan Finn showed composure on the ball and a willingness to retain possession.
On 22 minutes the impressive Bengtsson crossed from the left only for Pape Diouf to scoop his snalshot over the bar and on 41 minutes Thompson pulled off a terrific save from Diouf’s header following another dangerous cross from the left flank.
But despite the more clearcut chances falling to Copenhagen, Rovers left the field at half time having competed on level terms with the highly regarded Danish champions. Nor did the Tallaght side fade in the second half, maintaining their composure, defending comfortably and even adding a touch of danger to their efforts at the other end.
Billy Dennehy provided the main channel for Rover’s attacking play and, with Gary McCabe coming on for Kelly in the 53rd minute, the Hoops suddenly found themselves potent on both flanks. On 57 minutes McCabe won a corner on the right and when the ball was delivered into the box Ken Oman was a whisker away from planting his header inside the back post from eight yards out.
Eleven minutes later Rovers forged a chance for Ronan Finn following some excellent attacking play down the right. McCabe was the primary architect but as the ball came into the middle, two Rovers players passed up half chances to work the ball to Finn on the left, whose hooked shot drifted just wide of the Copenhagen goal.
Of course Copenhagen were still dangerous themselves and as Rovers legs tired a number of sharp breaks almost put the home side through for what would have been a tie-ending second goal. Ken Oman was forced off with an injury having thrown himself into a courageous block and Rice took was also hurt in the act of charging down a powerful shot.
But the final ten minutes were not just the latter stages of an heroic defence. Rovers’ back line were as measured as they were heroic and up until the last minute the hope of an equaliser lingered. When it came, the final whistle signaled not just a performance of quality, but also a position in the tie that offers the real possibility of an upset.
FC Copenhagen: Johan Wiland; Johnny Thomsen (Ragnar Sigurdsson, 46), Solvi Ottesen, Mathias Jorgensen, Pierre Bengtsson; Christian Bolanos, Claudemir de Souza, Christian Grindheim, Thomas Delaney (Johan Absalonsen, 61); Cesar Santin (Morten Nordstrand, 70), Pape Diouf.
Subs not used: Kim Christensen, Thomas Kristensen, Bryan Oviedo, Youssef Toutouh.
Bookings: Claudemir (89).
Shamrock Rovers: Ryan Thompson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman (Dan Murray, 83), Enda Stevens; Dean Kelly (Gary Kelly, 53), Ronan Finn, Conor McCormack, Stephen Rice (Ciaran Kilduff, 90), Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Pat Flynn, Paddy Kavanagh, Gary O’Neill.
Bookings: Murray (89).
Referee: Pavle Radovanovi (Montenegro).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ken Oman.