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'He's one of the most honest players in the league and he doesn't go down if he's not hurt'

Shamrock Rovers striker Aaron Greene defended Roberto Lopes, who was at the centre of a controversy in his side’s Champions League exit.

Shamrock Rovers react after conceding against Slovan Bratislava.
Shamrock Rovers react after conceding against Slovan Bratislava.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS travel to face Derry City this evening with the disappointment of the Champions League exit still fresh in their mind.

The tie against Slovan Bratislava hinged on a controversial incident at Tallaght Stadium. With 18 minutes remaining and the sides level 2-2 on aggregate, Roberto Lopes claimed for a foul as he went to challenge for the ball and ended up on the deck.

The referee waved play on and Vladimir Weiss subsequently powered the ball home from the edge of the area to secure the visitors’ passage through to the next round.

Stephen Bradley expressed his unhappiness with the officiating, while Aaron Greene, who appeared off the bench during the game, agreed with his manager.

“I thought the boys were brilliant,” the 31-year-old forward said afterwards. “I knew they [Slovan] would come here thinking the job was done because we didn’t do ourselves any justice over there. We didn’t lay a glove on them [in the first leg] although the heat had a big factor. They are good players, but I think we have played better teams.”

On the moment that decided the tie, Greene added: “Pico is not even looking for it. He’s one of the most honest players in the league and he doesn’t go down if he’s not hurt. It’s a blatant free-kick and decisions like that cost you. They were rattled and I thought they were gone. I only came on in the 80th minute but I could see from the side how frustrated they were getting. It’s one that got away and we have to learn from it.

“Even over there, Ronan’s one [Finn was adjudged to have tripped Weiss for a penalty], I think it was a dive. The referee over there said he was sorry, but it didn’t mean anything because he missed [the spot kick]. How can you apologise? Everything involved in Champions League football and getting to the next round would have been brilliant for us, but it’s not to be.”

Source: Shamrock Rovers TV/YouTube

In terms of Europe, Rovers must now turn their attention to the Europa Conference League. Their third qualifying round ties against yet-to-be-determined opponents will take place on 5 and 12 August, with potential passage into the competition’s play-off round and then the group stages thereafter. After some encouraging moments in Tuesday’s clash, Greene is confident the Hoops will make an impact at that level.

“The manager asked us about bringing our identity into games. We played AC Milan here and gave them a right good game. We went over there [Bratislava] and while I keep saying it, the sun had a factor but we didn’t do ourselves any justice. We conceded just after the water break and just after half-time — we switched off concentration twice. It’s something we have to look back on as a group and learn from but we have shown that we can give anyone a game. Limassol and AIK were better than [Slovan], and that’s not being disrespectful. They are still in pre-season and they are a good side, but this is one that got away.”

The more immediate task, though, is securing three points away to Derry City this evening, with table toppers Rovers currently level on points with Sligo and St Patrick’s Athletic but ahead on goal difference.

“We’re hurting but we have to take that into Friday and just drive the train on. In our schedule, the game was supposed to be for Saturday but now it’s Friday. Nobody in the league wants to help us, but we have a good squad. Ruaidhri [Higgins] has done a great job with Derry. I watched the game at home on Friday and I thought they were very unlucky but we just have to worry about us and the manager will have us prepped like he always does. There is no game that we go into that is any different. He approaches every game tactically brilliant and we will know where their strengths and weaknesses are.”

The reigning Premier Division champions haven’t always hit the heights to which they aspire this season, but Greene believes his side have been making progress in recent weeks.

“I thought we played really well first-half against Drogheda and since we came back from the break, the first 45 to 50 minutes, I think Harps and Drogheda scored in simultaneous games. It’s one the manager said to us. We have the most amount of fans in the league and we want to give them something. They were amazing [on Tuesday] but coming up to the Dundalk game, we didn’t give them anything to shout about, drawing at home to Harps and then Drogheda. Dundalk was our best performance and then [against Slovan] was up there again so we know when we’re at it and demanding off each other, it’s great stuff. We have a lot of boys back now with Dylan [Watts], Joey [O'Brien] and Danny [Mandroiu] had a little knock.”

And Greene plays down the suggestion that the potential distraction of his side’s European adventures could negatively impact their domestic form.

“This is why we live the lives we live and the reason we play for this club. We’re in most days so you have all the sports scientists and physios to look after us. We can’t go and say ‘ah, it’s Derry on Friday’. We have to go and do it.

“We know how tough Derry away is. They are playing a completely different style of football. I know Ruaidhri from playing with him at Bohs and he’s big into it, so it’s going to be really tough. This is the reason why we play for this club. People talk about professionalism in this league but playing Tuesday and Friday, it’s part and parcel of it and this is what we get paid to do. This is why you look after yourself in the off-season or week to week and day to day, the stuff that people don’t see away from the games. We want to be playing games.”

Upcoming fixtures:

Premier Division

Friday

Derry v Shamrock Rovers (7.45pm)
St Patrick’s Athletic v Drogheda (7.45pm)

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Saturday

Dundalk v Finn Harps (4pm)

Sunday

Bohemians v Longford (4pm)
Waterford v Sligo Rovers (4pm)

First Division

Friday

Bray Wanderers v Galway (7.30pm)
Treaty United v UCD (7.45pm)
Athlone Town v Shelbourne (7.45 pm)
Wexford v Cork City (7.45pm)

Saturday

Cobh Ramblers v Cabinteely (7pm)

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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