Europa League Report: Shamrock Rovers 2 - 1 SK Brann (Shamrock Rovers win 4-3 on aggregate)Thu, Jul 18 2019
Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers scored twice in the final 15 minutes to seal a dramatic comeback win and set up a Europa League second qualifying round tie with Apollon Limassol.
Jack Byrne and Gary O’Neill turned the tie on its head in 11 second-half minutes after Daouda Bamba had put SK Brann 3-2 up on aggregate early in the second half.
The Hoops had been relatively comfortable until that point but the hard-running Brann striker offered the visitors a different dimension when he came on at half time and he finished brilliantly after rounding Alan Mannus.
Byrne put Rovers back in front on away goal with a sublime spin and finish, before he turned creator for substitute O’Neill to clinch it with his first goal for the club since signing at the beginning of the month.
Both Rovers goals were greeted with pitch invasions from the heaving south stand, which will surely incur additional costs for the Hoops, but few will be too concerned just yet on a famous night for Stephen Bradleys side.
The Hoops came into the tie with a slight advantage after Roberto Lopes’ injury-time header had earned them a 2-2 draw on the road seven days ago.
There was a tenseness about their first-half performance as the home side enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked a real outlet up front with Graham Cummins still working his way towards fitness.
An interception from Sean Kavanagh, in for Trevor Clarke as one of two changes to the side, early on almost led to a chance for the Cork City loanee but Cummins lost his footing as the ball hung in the air.
Brann’s first chance arrived on the quarter-hour mark as Lopes’ tackle on Veton Berisha saw the ball fall kindly for Fredrik Haugen on the edge of the box, but he thrashed at his shot.
Captain Ronan Finn was presented a glorious chance when he robbed the ball off Bismar Acosta and had a free run on goal but he didn’t quite have the legs and saw his shot well-saved by Hakon Opdal.
The second half proved a more eventful affair and Rovers had a big chance inside a minute of the restart when Byrne played in Ethan Boyle, but the wing-back’s cross/shot flashed past the post.
Disaster struck just before the hour as route one paid big dividends for the visitors, Opdal’s long punt flicked on by Berisha and the substitute Bamba raced through.
Sensing Grace didn’t have the pace to cover, Mannus came bounding out of his goal but was easily rounded by Bamba, and the striker squeezed a fantastic finish just inside the post.
It could have gotten worse for Rovers when Greg Bolger carelessly ceded possession around his own box and Joey O’Brien cut in, opening space for Berisha.
The striker cut inside and drove a low shot through the recovering defenders but Mannus, fortunately, had his angles covered.
Cummins saw his header from a Byrne cross easily saved and he was soon hooked in favour of Dan Carr, and it took the Englishman mere moments to make his presence felt.
Carr did well to get his head to the ball and pick out Finn on the edge of the area, and he played a lovely short pass to send Byrne free, but it was all about the pirouette and calm finish from the former Manchester City man.
Rovers hit the front three minutes from time and Carr was again centrally involved, doing brilliantly to keep hold of the ball out wide and feeding the arriving Byrne.
The midfielder spotted sub O’Neill on the outside and played him in, the midfielder’s shot taken a wicked deflection to wrongfoot Opdal.
Brann could have forced extra time and again it was Bamba at the heart of it but, in the final minute, his shot on the turn rose high over the bar.
Rovers had to ensure six minutes of injury time and a succession of corners and balls into the box but Brann couldn’t find a way through and the final whistle, eventually, sounded.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ethan Boyle, Greg Bolger, Jack Byrne, Dylan Watts (Aaron McEneff 63), Sean Kavanagh; Ronan Finn (Gary O’Neill 81), Graham Cummins (Daniel Carr 75).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Trevor Clarke, Sean Callan, Aaron Greene, Dan Carr.
Booked: Ethan Boyle (84), Lee Grace (90+1).
SK Brann: Hakon Opdal; Taijo Teniste, Bismar Acosta Evans, Christian Eggen Rismark, Ruben Kristiansen; Fredrik Haugen, Amer Ordagic, Petter Strand (Ruben Yttergard Jensen 84); Gilli Rolantsson (Azar Karadas 84), Gilbert Koomson (Doauda Bamba 46), Veton Berisha.
Subs not used: Eirik Holmen Johansen (gk), Thomas Grogaard, Jesper Lofgren, Kristoffer Lokberg.
Referee: Kari Jóannesarson Á Høvdanum (Faroe Islands)
Attendance: 5,135 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers).