Match Report: Slovan Bratislava 2-0 Shamrock Rovers
Shamrock Rovers fell to defeat in Bratislava in their UEFA Champions League 1st Qualifying Round 1st leg against Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava.
Stephen Bradley named an unchanged starting-eleven from the side that defeated Dundalk FC in Tallaght last Friday, with one change on the substitutes bench - Graham Burke replacing Aidomo Emakhu - for tonights UEFA Champions League 1st Qualifying Round 1st leg.
It was Shamrock Rovers who started the better of the sides and should have been ahead after just eight minutes. A Liam Scales cross fell to an unmarked Sean Gannon inside the Slovan 18-yard box, but the right-wing back volleyed his effort wide of the Slovan goal.
Rovers had to wait only two minutes for their next chance when Richie Towell's volleyed effort was saved down low by the Slovan keeper Adrian Chovan.
No sooner had Chovan been forced into a save and the hosts were on the attack up the other end of the pitch. The ball eventually fell to Ezekial Henty, who forced Alan Mannus to a finger-tip save to deny the winger from opening the scoring at the Tehelne Pole stadium.
The hosts broke the deadlock after 28 minutes when a Ezekial Henty cross was headed into the Rovers net by attacker Rafel Ratao. With a glazing sun in his eyes, it is understandable that Alan Mannus struggled to keep the ball out.
Rovers struggled to create any chances in the remaining 17 minutes of the first-half, and went into the break trailing by a goal-to-nil.
Rovers were dealt a huge blow just two minutes into the second half when Rafael Ratao netted his second of the game with a finish from close range, after a mix up in the Rovers defence. A Slovan player looked to have been in an offside position in the lead up to the goal but the Austrian referee failed to notice this, with no VAR in operation in Slovakia.
Stephen Bradley's side really struggled to create any real goal-scoring opportunities in the second-half, with the hosts limiting the Hoops to efforts from long-range.
Rovers made some attacking opportunities mid-way through the second-half but still struggled to create any clear openings.
Things went from bad to worse in injury time for Rovers, when Slovan caught the Hoops on a counter-attack and Vladimir Weiss was brought down by Ronan Finn inside the penalty box and the referee pointed straight to the spot.
Weiss stepped up for the penalty but Alan Mannus guessed correctly and pushed Weiss' spot-kick away from danger to limit Rovers' losses.
This defeat puts Rovers in a difficult position ahead of next Tuesday's second leg in Tallaght. But with 1,500 Rovers fans expected to be in attendance, the tie is only at half-time now and there is still 90 minutes of action remaining for the Hoops to turn the tie around.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus; 3. Sean Hoare, 4. Roberto Lopes, 5. Lee Grace; 2. Sean Gannon (67' 14. Danny Mandroiu), 8. Ronan Finn (C), 16. Gary O'Neill, 17. Richie Towell (67' 10. Graham Burke), 15. Liam Scales; 9. Aaron Greene (67' 7. Dylan Watts), 20. Rory Gaffney.
Slovan Bratislava: 1. Adrián Chovan; 17. Jurij Medvedev, 4. Guram Kashia, 29. Vasil Bozikov, 81. Vernon De Marco; 6. Joeri De Kamps, 20. Jaba Kankava (73' Jaromir Zmrhal), 10. Ibrahim Rabiu (92' Filip Lichy); 77. Aleksandar Cavric (74' David Hrncar), 9. Ezekiel Henty (63' Vladimir Weiss), 21. Rafael Ratao (92' David Strelec).