Superb brace from ex-Villa youngster keeps Shamrock Rovers' Europa League hopes alive

Graham Burke claimed two goals amid late drama at Tallaght Stadium.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 2

Mlada Boleslav 3

Aaron Gallagher reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS HAVE it all to play for in their Europa League second-round tie with Mlada Boleslav next week in Prague.

A stunning brace from former Aston Villa youngster Graham Burke, including a goal in the dying seconds, put a positive light on a 3-2 defeat to the Czechs in Tallaght Stadium.

Boleslav showed their class to take the lead on two occasions, while adding a third three minutes from time, before Burke’s second of the night threw a spanner in the works for next week’s second leg.

Rovers were high on confidence following their 2-0 aggregate defeat of Icelandic side Stjarnan in what was only the third time the club had won both legs of a European qualifier in its history.

The Rovers camp were hoping to emulate last week’s win with the visit of Czech side Boleslav to Dublin. However, it was always going to be difficult. Iceland ranks 33rd in the European club rankings, while the Czech Republic lies in 12th, with Ireland in 36th.

Ultimately, this gulf in class was evident on Thursday night, as Rovers could not replicate their first-round successes against a side that finished fourth in the Czech league last season.

Rovers had their chances and started the brighter of the two sides. Captain Ronan Finn fired an early effort well over the crossbar, before defender Simon Madden almost lobbed goalkeeper Jakub Divis with a cross-shot, which dipped just inches over the goal.

Rovers got lucky when a fine free kick from Golgol Mebrahtu was cleared dramatically off the line. Madden stood composed and brilliantly headed away the effort destined for the top corner to keep it level at 0-0.

Boleslav, however, turned on the style and hit Rovers with a fine, swift move along the left flank. Winger Tomas Prikryl crossed at the near post, and Mebrahtu was on hand to steer a header past Tomer Chencinski, as the goalkeeper came from his line to punch clear.

The home support was downbeat thereafter and while the Hoops went into the half-time break subdued, they were back in the tie just 13 minutes into the second half.

Graham Burke was the man of the moment seven days ago when his first-half goal proved decisive in that 1-0 second-leg win against Stjarnan last Thursday.

The former Aston Villa and Notts County playmaker provided another moment of utter class, as he scooped a stunning 25-yard volley right into the top corner to level the scores and send Tallaght Stadium into raptures.

Their delight was short-lived, however, as Boleslav again provided a devastating move to re-take the lead less than 20 minutes later. Some quick passing on the edge of the box saw captain Marek Matejovsky feed a neat ball to Patrizio Stronati.

The 22-year-old crossed at the front post where that man again Mebrahtu was on hand to prod the ball home and inflict another away goal on a deflated Rovers.

Stephen Bradley’s side did not allow their heads to drop completely and regrouped to try to bring the scores level ahead of next week’s second leg.

Space opened up for captain Finn, who cracked a long-range effort into the palms of goalkeeper Divis. Luke Byrne saw another effort spilled by the Boleslav goalkeeper, but even as the Hoops increased the pressure, they could not find the cutting edge to draw the scores level.

But Boleslav went for the jugular with three minutes remaining as yet another dangerous cross from the right flank courtesy of Lukas Pauschek saw Jan Chramosta steer the ball home at the back post to make it 3-1.

But in a game that had everything the Hoops simply would not lie down. A routine cross into the box caused panic among Boleslav’s defenders. It fell to an unmarked Burke, who crashed an outstanding effort into the middle of the net for 3-2, meaning it is still all to play for next Thursday.

From the depths of despair, Rovers have maintained hope of causing an upset in seven days’ time.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Tomer Chencinski, Simon Madden, David Webster, Roberto Lopes, Luke Byrne, Ronan Finn, Ryan Connolly, Trevor Clarke, Brandon Miele (David McAllister 83), Graham Burke, Gary Shaw

MLADA BOLESLAV: Jakub Divis, Jiri Fleisman, Marek Matejovsky (Lukas Magera 90), Tomas Prikryl, Patrizio Stronati, Petr Mares (Tomas Fabian 73), Jan Chramosta, Lukas Pauschek, Pavel Cmovs, Jakub Rada, Golgol Tedros Mebrahtu (Adam Janos 91)

Referee: Bojan Panzic

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Aaron Gallagher

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