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Good afternoon everyone, you’re very welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of Shamrock Rovers’ Europa League second qualifying round second leg meeting with Apollon Limassol.

After a brilliant come-from-behind win in Tallaght last week, Stephen Bradley’s men take a 2-1 lead into today’s second leg.

They have a really promising chance of making it through to the third qualifying round, where Austria Wien await the winners of tonight’s tie.

Dundalk came up short against Qarabag in Baku yesterday and have now taken their place in the Europa League third qualifying round.

Bradley’s men will hope to join them tonight and have every reason to be optimistic after overcoming SK Brann in the last round and thanks to last week’s superb display in Dublin, led by yet another Jack Byrne masterclass.

It won’t be easy, mind. Apollon made it all the way to the Europa League group stages last season. Not only that, they actually beat Marseille and Lazio along the way before finishing third in Group H.

It promises to be an exciting evening of European action. Stick with us for the journey, kick-off is coming up in just over an hour’s time at 6pm.

Let’s get started with the team news…

Stephen Bradley has opted to make just one change from last Thursday’s 2-1 win in Tallaght. Dan Carr drops to the bench, with Aaron Greene taking his place up front.

Greene has seven Premier Division goals so far this season and has been getting back to his best form with the Hoops this year.

Graham Burke’s return from Preston on loan was well received by supporters — some more good news after the buzz generated by last week’s first leg.

Burke has travelled with the Rovers squad to Cyprus, but he is not eligible to play a part in this evening’s game unfortunately.

Here are the highlights of last week’s first leg where goals from Lee Grace and Roberto Lopes (both assisted by Jack Byrne) saw Rovers come from behind to snatch a crucial 2-1 win at home.

Source: Fygas BAMBU/YouTube

Jack Byrne absolutely ran the show seven days ago. There were some questions surrounding the Dubliner when he returned home after a frustrating spell in England and Scotland.

But the young man looks happy again and this is definitely being reflected in his football. Byrne was the best player on the pitch in the opening leg, something definitely worthy of respect considering this Apollon side beat Marseille and Lazio in the group stages last season.

Ireland boss Mick McCarthy has been impressed by Byrne, but says if the player is to get another Ireland call-up he needs to play in that advanced, forward position in midfield where he has excelled.

Jack Byrne Source: Sakis Savvides/INPHO

“People have watched him and been very impressed with him,” McCarthy said. “The last report I got, he was playing further forward instead of playing back between the two centre halves like he was the last time I saw him.

“And if he plays there then he is never ever ever going to have a chance of playing for me, getting the ball off the centre backs, being a quarterback and firing the ball all over. He has to be up behind the centre forward.”

McCarthy added: “By the way, I’m not trying to tell Stephen Bradley where to play him. I’m saying that any chance he has of playing for me is him playing further forward where he can find a final pass because he can see it.

“I mean finding passes into midfield players, somebody should be doing that to him so he can do the damage and he is a good finisher. Unless he is doing that he has no chance for me. I heard the last time he played he played further forward and he was excellent.”

Right, half an hour to go before action gets underway in Cyprus. How do you see this one going? Let us know below!


Poll Results:

Shamrock Rovers progress (101)
 Apollon progress (47)


The thoughts of Stephen Bradley ahead of kick-off. He knows tonight will be a difficult game, but says Rovers are out here to win it. Remember, a 1-0 win for Apollon would be enough for the hosts to go through on away goals, but as it stands it’s advantage Rovers.

Both sides have a number of big absentees this evening at the GSP Stadium.

As mentioned, Graham Burke is ineligible after arriving on loan from Preston North End.

But Rovers are also without key frontmen Graham Cummins and Neil Farrugia.

Cummins suffered concussion during his side’s 1-1 draw with Cork last weekend, while Farrugia is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Apollon will be without their Argentine midfielder Esteban Sachetti, who was sent off late in the first leg in Tallaght for a rash challenge on Jack Byrne.

2Mins

A decent start by Rovers here in the opening few minutes. Straight from tip-off Aaron Greene races into the box looking to get a shot away, but the move breaks down. A few moments later the referee needs to have a quiet word with Greg Bolger for an early foul.

4Mins

Apollon starting to get the ball down on the deck and string some passages of passing play together. Sasa Markovic dictating the play, getting lots of early touches in the middle of the park.

6Mins

Joey O’Brien forced to headed clear for a corner kick. The corner is played short and works its way to Emilio Jose Zelaya who smashes an almighty effort flying towards the bottom corner. It seemed destined for the back of the net but it flies the wrong side of Alan Mannus’ net. Almost 1-0.

The Shamrock Rovers team Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

7Mins

Apollon applying quite a bit of pressure now. Giannis Gianniotas finds time and space down the right flank and delivers a dangerous cross into the box, but Mannus is first to meet it and catches easily.

7Mins

Charalampos Kyriakou collects the game’s first yellow card after just seven minutes. The referee isn’t happy after a rash sliding challenge on Aaron Greene, who was venturing forward for Rovers.

9Mins

A barrage of crosses flying into the Rovers box now. Stephen Bradley’s men are soaking up quite a bit of pressure being pinned inside their own half. Endurance will be crucial out there in the Cypriot heat.

11Mins

Free for Rovers down the other end. Centre back Roger M’Pinda snatches at the ankles of Jack Byrne, but it’s a poor delivery into the box and Apollon easily race clear with the ball into another attack.

Joey O'Brien and Fotis Papoulis Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

14Mins

Gianniotas and Gakpe are doing well on both flanks, stretching the play out wide and making what already looks like a massive playing surface even bigger. Rovers are definitely going to have to dig deep tonight in that heat.

16Mins

Strike from Emilio Jose Zelaya is deflected over the crossbar and Apollon earn another corner kick. The delivery is poor, though, and Joey O’Brien manages to get his head to the ball first at the front post to clear.

18Mins

Markovic tries to thread a neat through ball into dangerous territory behind enemy lines, but Lee Grace reads the danger good and early, sticks out a toe and manages to intercept. Good defending.

Flag 18Mins

GOAL! APOLLON 1-0 SHAMROCK ROVERS (ZELAYA 18)

Apollon take the lead! It’s a massive setback for Rovers after 18 minutes as Emilio Jose Zelaya heads the hosts ahead. A deep cross into the box sees Zelaya rise highest at the back post, beating Joey O’Brien to the ball, and he manages to get enough power behind his header to beat Alan Mannus.

Emilio Jose Zelaya celebrates scoring their first goal Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

21Mins

Rovers go behind early in the second leg and it’s just the start Stephen Bradley would not have wanted. Apollon have been on top since the first whistle and Zelaya’s header now puts his side ahead in the tie on away goals. If the score stays as it is now, Rovers will go out.

24Mins

Ethan Boyle collects a yellow card for a foul on left-back Diego Aguirre. The booking seemed incredibly harsh, a little tug of the jersey from Boyle as both players competed for the ball, but the referee shows no tolerance for that sort of thing.

26Mins

Rovers finally manage to get the ball down on the deck in order to string a few passes together. Sean Kavanagh and Aaron McEneff do really well with some neat exchanges, and McEneff eventually draws a foul inside his own half.

28Mins

A bit of back-and-forth between Giannis Gianniotas and Greg Bolger there. Gianniotas appeared to stamp on Bolger’s leg, before the Wexford man responded with a foul which drew the referee’s attention.

Stephen Bradley Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

30Mins

Shouts for a penalty for the hosts as goalscorer Zelaya went down inside the box under a ‘challenge’ from Greg Bolger. But any chance of a penalty was laughable and the referee books Zelaya for simulation after going down far too easily. Ronan Finn applauds the referee for spotting the dive.

32Mins

Two big, big saves from Alan Mannus to deny Serge Gakpe and Fotis Papoulis. Gakpe tried his luck first with a mighty strike which Mannus could only palm into the ground. Papoulis followed up with a re-bound, but the Rovers goalkeeper did well to smoother the ball again. 

34Mins

Amazingly, Apollon have enjoyed 75% of possession in the opening half an hour. Rovers have been forced to sit back for the entirety of the first half so far and have struggled to carve out any chances at the other end to test goalkeeper Joel Mall.

37Mins

Free strike at goal from Fotis Papoulis forces a superb save from Alan Mannus, who really is keeping Rovers in this at the moment. Papoulis pulled away on the edge of the box into space and arrowed a brilliant effort flying towards the top corner. Mannus read it early and sprung across to tip the ball wide.

A Shamrock Rovers fan cheers on the team Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

40Mins

Apollon with their fourth corner of the opening half, but it’s another poor delivery which a Rovers head rises highest to meet and clear. Bradley’s side will really want to get into half-time without conceding another. This tie is far from over as it stands.

42Mins

Finally a few moments of respite for the visitors, as Lopes, Grace and O’Brien get some touches on the ball away from pressure trying to construct an attack ahead of them. But yet again Gakpe and Gianniotas press high and win the ball back far too easily.

44Mins

Save! Another superb stop from Alan Mannus, who is playing out of his skin out there. Sasa Markovic strikes a beautiful free rocketing towards the middle of the goal and Mannus is there again to get a strong hand to it and force a corner. Incredible goalkeeping.

45Mins

Aaron Greene tries to latch onto a ball booted forward into dangerous territory, but Diego Aguirre watches him all the way and successfully shepherds the ball away for a goal kick. Greene smiles ruefully — chances really have been few and far between for him.

Emilio Jose Zelaya celebrates scoring their first goal Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

Flag 45Mins

HALF-TIME: APOLLON 1-0 SHAMROCK ROVERS

The referee blows his whistle and we’re halfway there. It’s been a tough slog for Shamrock Rovers out there.

Apollon have been on top from the very first whistle and have been just relentless — dominating possession, all the chances and constantly pressing the Hoops when without the ball.

The hosts broke the deadlock after 18 minutes with a tidy header from Emilio Jose Zelaya at the back post.

That goal means Apollon are now ahead in the tie. If the score stays as it is, they will go through on away goals and meet Austria Wien in the next round.

A massive half to come in Cyprus!

48Mins

Apollon very much picking up where they left off in the first half, running straight at Rovers now and trying to carve open their defence with darting runs and slick passing. They want a second goal right away to put this tie to bed early.

50Mins

Strike! A mighty effort from Giannis Gianniotas flies high and over the crossbar. He did well to latch onto possession and evade the challenges of Grace and Lopes before releasing his shot. Always rising though, always going over.

Greg Bolger and Fotis Papoulis Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

51Mins

Much, much better from Rovers here. Aaron Greene works really well down the right-hand side and crosses into a dangerous area, which forces Joao Pedro to put the ball out for a corner kick.

53Mins

Jack Byrne’s corner is battered away, but Lee Grace shouts for a penalty after claiming to be shoved while trying to jump high for a header. The referee waves play on though and Apollon survive a rare moment of pressure.

54Mins

Rovers earn a free high up the pitch. It’s not quite shooting distance, so Jack Byrne lobs a cross towards the box, but it fails to beat the first man and is easily headed clear. A lot better from Bradley’s side these last few minutes, though.

56Mins

Big, big chance to make it 2-0 for the hosts but yet again Alan Mannus is like a brick wall at the back for Rovers. Serge Gakpe sprints clear against the run of play and leaves a number of defenders in his dust. Space opens up just outside the box and he tries his luck with a low effort, but Mannus dives to his right and smoothers the ball.

Ronan Finn and Roger Tamba M'Pinda Source: Marios Gregoriou/INPHO

59Mins

A chance for Rovers at the other end. Sean Kavanagh peels away from his marker along the left wing and shuffles the ball cleverly onto his left boot. Kavanagh whacks a dangerous ball into the box, but Aaron Greene can’t get onto it after an initial knock-on.

60Mins

A first switch of the evening for the hosts as 21-year-old Hungarian defender Attila Szalai replaces winger Serge Gakpe, who just had that close chance to double his side’s lead. It looks like Apollon are edging towards a more defensive approach.

63Mins

Lee Grace picks up a yellow card for a foul along the touchline. It’s been a much more even contest since the interval, it has to be said. Apollon are still on top and always dangerous in attack, but Rovers are at least seeing a bit more of the ball.

Flag

GOAL! APOLLON 2-0 SHAMROCK ROVERS (SZALAI 63)

Another huge setback for Rovers as Apollon double their lead. Alan Mannus initially produced another brilliant save to deny Sasa Markovic, but second half substitute Attila Szalai was on hand inside the box to slot away the rebound and make it 2-0. It’s now 3-2 to the hosts on aggregate.

Cyprus Soccer Europa League Source: Petros Karadjias

67Mins

RED CARD! The drama is non stop as Apollon have their captain sent off just a minute after they scored. A fairly routine foul saw Fotis Papoulis and Ronan Finn exchange words, before Papoulis grabbed Finn by the throat. He’s off for an early shower and Rovers might have a lifeline here.

Flag 68Mins

GOAL! APOLLON 2-1 SHAMROCK ROVERS (GREENE 68)

WHAT A GOAL! This game has been completely turned on its head as Aaron Greene scores an absolute belter from outside the box. One minute Apollon had scored, the next their captain is sent off and the next Aaron Greene fizzes a stunning left-footed effort right into goalkeeper Joel Mall’s top corner. Incredible scenes!

Cyprus Soccer Europa League Source: Petros Karadjias

70Mins

The Rovers players all reeled away in jubilant celebration, everyone stunned by Greene’s phenomenal strike from what must have been at least 25 yards out. As it stands this game is heading for extra-time, but with Apollon now a man down Rovers may go for the win here. Wow.

73Mins

An incredible last five minutes, as the game finally has a moment to catch it’s breath. Apollon were on cloud nine when Szalai slotted in their second goal to make it 3-2 on aggregate. That goal looked to have buried Rovers, but thanks to an idiotic red card from captain Papoulis and Greene’s stunning goal, this tie is alive and kicking. I need a lie down lads, this is too much.

75Mins

Stephen Bradley’s men have a renewed sense of confidence now, getting the ball down on the ground and passing it about. Apollon look a shell of the team that dominated the opening 45 minutes tonight, now trying to fight on with just 10 men.

78Mins

The travelling contingent of Rovers fans are making themselves heard high up the clouds. This ground is very, very empty. Not a great home crowd for a club which was in the group stages of the Europa League last season beating Lazio and Marseille, it has to be said.

Emilio Jose Zelaya with Sean Kavanagh Source: Marios Gregoriou/INPHO

80Mins

Rovers have since brought on Gary O’Neill, by the way. Amid all the madness and chaos he replaced Aaron McEneff a few minutes ago. He slots into midfield, trying to aid Jack Byrne and Greg Bolger in wrestling control of possession.

82Mins

What a block! It won’t get the credit it deserves but Roberto Lopes pops up with a crucial piece of defending inside the penalty area to deny Apollon what would have been a late winner. He throws himself in the way of Zelaya’s shot and hacks the ball clear.

84Mins

Another change by Stephen Bradley with about seven minutes plus stoppage time remaining in normal time. Dylan Watts is sprung from the bench and replaces Joey O’Brien, who looks absolutely wrecked. He’s put in some shift at the back.

87Mins

Close! Jack Byrne finds time and space outside the box and let’s fly with a well-struck effort from distance. It flies through the Cypriot night’s sky but falls right into the arms of goalkeeper Joel Mall, who clenches the ball firmly.

Jack Byrne and Serge Gakpe Source: Marios Gregoriou; ©INPHO/Marios Gregoriou/INPHO

88Mins

Two minutes of normal time to go and this game looks set for extra-time. A lot of tired bodies out there and these sides are just nullifying one another as it stands. What a comeback from Stephen Bradley’s men tonight.

89Mins

A third and final change for the Hoops. Dan Carr replaces skipper Ronan Finn, as Bradley adds a bit more firepower up front to help Aaron Greene. Rovers very much going for this.

90Mins

There will be five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half.

A massive let-off for Rovers after some nervous goalkeeping from Alan Mannus almost costs the Hoops a goal in the second minute of stoppage time. The goalkeeper just completely miscontroled the ball after being blocked down, allowing Zelaya in at goal, but Apollon couldn’t find a finishing touch.

Joey O'Brien speaks with Michael Tykgaard Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

90Mins

Rovers pushing forward for a winner right until the last minute. Ethan Boyle picks up the ball in a decent position out wide on the right, but his delivery into the box is blocked away for a throw-in. A lot of whistles from supporters for the full-time whistle.

Flag

FULL-TIME IN NORMAL TIME: APOLLON 2-1 SHAMROCK ROVERS (3-3 ON AGGREGATE)

The referee blows his whistle and we’re heading for extra-time in Cyprus. 

An absolutely bonkers second half sees Stephen Bradley’s men come from behind in incredible fashion.

Attila Szalai had put the hosts 2-0 ahead (3-2 on aggregate) with a tidy finish off the bench. 

But a crazy five minute period firstly saw Apollon score, have their captain sent off for grabbing Ronan Finn’s throat and then Aaron Greene level the tie with a phenomenal effort.

More action to come shortly, and you do feel that Rovers will definitely be going for a win in extra-time with Apollon a man down.

92Mins

Rovers going for it right from tip-off. Ethan Boyle navigates forward with an overlapping run and feeds a low cross into the mixer, but it’s blocked out wide for a corner kick. 

94Mins

RED CARD! A massive setback for Rovers as Lee Grace is shown a second yellow card for shoulder-charging his marker. Both sides down to 10 men now.

Close! Some wonderful work by Dan Carr almost produces a comical own goal. Carr’s initial strike looked like it might fly on target, but Joao Pedro really did help it on it’s way — the ball narrowly dropping over the crossbar instead of under it.

Lee Grace dejected Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

99Mins

Gary O’Neill is brought down by Charalampos Kyriakou and the visitors have a free-kick in a decent position. Jack Byrne swings a curling cross into the box, but caught easily by goalkeeper Joel Mall coming off his line.

Flag

GOAL! APOLLON 3-1 SHAMROCK ROVERS (SARDINERO 101)

Apollon go 3-1 ahead on the night and 4-3 ahead on aggregate. It’s a really excellent finish from substitute Adrian Sardinero across his body and into Mannus’ bottom corner. Robert Lopes struggled to get a block in and Sardinero didn’t need an invitation to strike. A big setback for the Hoops.

103Mins

Close! Rovers almost equalise straight away. Dan Carr heads across goal after peeling away from Joao Pedro cleverly. The angle just wasn’t forthcoming, though, and Carr’s effort trickles out the other side of the box and wide.

There will not be a penalty shoot-out now tonight. Another goal for Rovers would make it 4-4 on aggregate and the Hoops would go through on away goals. A massive second half of extra-time coming very shortly.

Adrian Sardinero scores their third goal past Alan Mannus Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

Flag

HALF-TIME: APOLLON 3-1 SHAMROCK ROVERS (4-3 ON AGGREGATE)

The referee blows his whistle and we’ve reached the interval.

It’s been a tough 15 minutes for Rovers, with Lee Grace sent off and Apollon taking the lead thanks to Sardinero’s composed finish.

It’s still baking hot out there and there’s a lot of tired bodies battling it out on both sides.

One more goal will send Rovers through. More action to come in a few.

One switch for Rovers at the break. Thomas Oluwa replaces Greg Bolger. It’s a lively start to the second half already as Dan Carr takes down his man just outside the box and receives a yellow card for his troubles. Mannus saves the free on his line.

Jack Byrne swings an inviting free into the box. Dan Carr and Roberto Lopes are the targets, but Hector Yuste rises highest and heads clear. Apollon counter at lightning quick speed straight away, and Mannus is forced from his line to gather Markovic’s through ball.

Alan Mannus punches clear Source: Marios Gregoriou/INPHO

Strike on target from Dan Carr. He dribbles left and right, throwing his marker off balance, but his left-footed strike is weak and easily gathered by the hands of goalkeeper Mall on his goal-line. End-to-end stuff at the moment.

Gaps opening up at the back for Rovers now. Some really lovely passages of passing play between Pittas and Sardinero almost sees the hosts walk the ball into the net, but a crucial interception from Lopes ends the danger at the last hurdle.

Seven minutes left on the clock in Cyprus. Rovers trail 3-1 on the night but know that just one more goal will send them through to the Europa League third round qualifiers, where Austria Wien await. Bradley’s men need one more moment of magic.

Cyprus Soccer Europa League Source: Petros Karadjias

Close! Dylan Watts almost provides that moment of magic. He peels away at the back post untracked and unmarked and latches onto a long ball into the box. Watts hits the ball on his right boot, but can’t find the bottom corner as goalkeeper Mall produces a fine save.

Massive chance again for Rovers. Dylan Watts picks up possession on the right wing and fizzes an inviting ball into the penalty area. Aaron Greene stretches out his leg but can’t quite get there, before Thomas Oluwya pops up and flashes a shot just wide.

Two minutes left for Rovers to try and grab a goal. Apollon are still flooding men forward with Markovic and Zelaya still so dangerous when they’ve got the ball on their feet. Sardinero prevents a promising Rovers counter with a cynical drag which completely stops the flow of play.

Jack Byrne smacks the resulting free into the box, but goalkeeper Joel Mall races from his line and punches clear to safety with a strong pair of hands. The referee’s assistant indicates there will be two more minutes of stoppage time to come.

Aaron Greene, Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff dejected after Apollon scored their second goal Source: Chara Savvides/INPHO

Flag 120Mins

FULL-TIME: APOLLON 3-1 SHAMROCK ROVERS (4-3 ON AGGREGATE)

It’s all over as the referee blows his whistle for the final time tonight after a long, dramatic and chaotic affair.

This game had just about everything. Brilliant goals, multiple red cards and lots of drama in-between.

Aaron Greene’s goal tonight will live long in the memory of Shamrock Rovers supporters, but alas Stephen Bradley’s men must make their exit from European competition.

His side battled long and hard and it is a cruel way to exit after his side fought back after going 2-0 down on the night.

Thanks a million for joining us for the ride tonight — you can read our full match report here. Cya soon!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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