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Pragmatic O'Neill admits Rovers were outclassed by Rubin

The manager also said Rubin Kazan were the best team his side have ever come up against in a competitive fixture.

O'Neill is optimistic that his side can recover from the loss.
O'Neill is optimistic that his side can recover from the loss.

SHAMROCK ROVERS MANAGER Michael O’Neill delivered a brutally honest assessment of his side’s performance against Rubin Kazan last night, admitting that there was a clear gap in standards between the two sides.

And who could blame him? Despite enjoying some promising spells at times, and in particular, towards the latter stages of the game, Rovers patently came out second best against the classy Russians in the context of the entire ninety minutes.

In addition to goals scored by Obafemi Martins, Christian Noboa and Gokdeniz Karadeniz, the visitors also missed a penalty, while Rovers missed a spot kick of their own when Sergei Ryzhikov’s trailing leg prevented Stephen O’Donnell’s strike down the middle of the goal from going in.

And while few would have begrudged Rovers the goal that their endeavour and persistence so richly deserved, the 3-0 scoreline was ultimately an accurate reflection of the gulf in class between the two sides.

“Our best chances were at 3-0 down,” O’Neill admitted. “Maybe it’s because the opposition took their foot off the pedal.

The [Rubin] squad has been assembled from all four corners of the globe practically. If you look at the Martins [transfer] figure – we could run our club for 10 years off of that. That gives you an idea of the financial difference between the two clubs.

“They showed their class right through the game and losing a goal so early changed the tie dramatically. We found ourselves playing as if we were a goal down from the start.

“And it’s not the first time it [conceding an early goal] has happened.”

Positivity

While O’Neill was hardly upbeat in his review of the game, the manager remains adamant that the club still have what it takes to compete in the Europa League, and he expressed the belief that they have the ability to take points off teams in the group.

After all, the conquerors of Partizan Belgrade did not become a bad team overnight.

“The players showed great heart and wouldn’t have faced this level of opposition before,” he said.

“We are capable [of picking up points]. If we were just here to fill up the fixtures, there’d be no point in us being here.

“And our better results have been away from home. We won in Israel, we won in Belgrade and we were narrowly beaten in Copenhagen.

It’s good that the players will now see the level that’s required to compete in this competition.

Tactical battle

Rovers were out-passed and overrun in midfield during key periods in the game, and Rubin needed no second invitation to take advantage of their deficiencies, with their attackers consistently displaying a ruthlessness in front of goal that typified their class.

Part of the reason for Rubin’s dominance in the middle of the park, O’Neill revealed, was that he had been caught off guard by the visitors’ decision to deviate from their normal system and play in an alternative tactical style to the one he was anticipating.

“I felt it was difficult because in the DVDs, they played three at the back and four in the midfield and based their game-plan on that, but obviously, what we faced was different,” he explained.

“I tried to play Ronan [Finn] on the right in a more advanced role and match the four midfielders they had.

“Playing O’Donnell and Rice, or Turner and Finn was a case of looking at freshness and balance.

Maybe I asked a bit too much of Conor [McCormack], who’s only just back from injury. He was outstanding on Monday [against Pats] though.

Try, try again

Irrespective of the experience Rovers have gained from playing in the Europa and Champions League qualifiers, there is no doubt that last night’s game was a different proposition entirely and ultimately, quite a shock to the system.

O’Neill conceded that the game had been somewhat of a baptism of fire, but was confident the result would not hinder the progress his side have made in recent months.

“Football is an education all the time,” he remarked. “To improve, they’ll have to play at a higher level than they’re playing at now.

“Redknapp said Tottenham weren’t equipped to deal with it, which brought a wry smile to my face, as we only have a squad of 21.

“And when we analyse things in the cold light of day, we’ll see there was a lot of positives – the experience will stand us in good stead in the future.”

Read: As it happened: Europa League>

Read: Fabregas: Gunners will not challenge for top honours>


About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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