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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 26 August, 2019
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Jack Byrne inspires Shamrock Rovers to come-from-behind win in Europe

The playmaker scored one and assisted another as Rovers battled to a 2-1 win against SK Brann at Tallaght.

Jack Byrne celebrates his opening goal.
Jack Byrne celebrates his opening goal.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 2

SK Brann 1

Shamrock Rovers win 4-3 on aggregate 

TWICE ROVERS FANS spilled onto the Tallaght pitch in jubilation tonight, to greet the goals that hauled them from the fire and sent them beyond SK Brann into the second qualifying round of the Europa League. 

The fans who did end up on the pitch got closer to Jack Byrne than any of the Brann players did throughout the game – the Dubliner was utterly regal throughout, and unsurprisingly made the decisive interventions on the scoreboard. 

A 2-2 draw away from home in the first leg meant that a scoreless draw would do Rovers, but that prospect was shattered by a 50th-minute Brann goal by substitute Karamoko Bamba. 

Byrne, however, scored a sweet equaliser twenty minutes later, and it was his pass that allowed Gary O’Neill to seal the game four minutes from the end. 

Rovers began aggressively, hassling and harrying with zeal. They almost profited directly from their industry early on, as Ronan Finn dispossessed the hopelessly indolent Gilberto Acosta Evans, but his early shot from the edge of the penalty area was batted away by goalkeeper Hakon Opdal. 

The resulting corner resulted in another via some controversy – the ball pinballed about the area before dropping for Dylan Watts,  whose volley seemed to strike an SK Brann hand. The referee waved it away, saying the player’s hands were by his side and thus not in breach of even Uefa’s farcically generous rule. 

Brann were largely unthreatening in the opening exchanges, and their first-half shots totalled a couple of long-range shots that troubled the South Stand more than they did Alan Mannus.

Rovers kept the ball and recycled it pretty well, but they struggled desperately to create any chances from open play. Graham Cummins held the ball up reasonably well and cannily won a succession of soft free-kicks from our old friend, Acosta Evans, but lacked the pace to threaten their opponents in behind. 

It fell to left-wing back Sean Kavanagh to exploit this space, doing so courtesy of a series of delicious passes from deep by Jack Byrne, who dropped off into pockets of space to clip first-time passes that fell over the Brann defence like inch-perfect Roger Federer drop shots floating over a net. 

The end product didn’t match Byrne’s architecture, sadly. 

The second-half began with Byrne (obviously) bringing Rovers’ other wing-back into play. A gorgeous reverse pass bisected the left side of the Brann defence to find Ethan Boyle, who lashed a shot narrowly wide of the far post.

At half-time, Brann added the pace up front that Rovers lacked by swapping Karamoko Bamba for Gilbert Koomsoon.

He was the target for a series of hoiks over the top of the Rovers defence, and after a few nervy, last-ditch interventions by Roberto Lopes and Lee Grace, disaster struck approaching the hour mark with a goal in the finest traditions of Irish football.

Goalkeeper Opdal larruped a goal kick through the middle of the pitch, Veton Berisha flicked a header further forward which Bamba latched onto. Bamba waltzed around Alan Mannus with ease and stroked the ball into the empty net. 

 

Stephen Bradley replaced Watts with Aaron McEneff, and ten minutes later Rovers fashioned their best chance of the game. Byrne swung a cross from deep on to Cummins’ forehead on the edge of the six-yard box, but the striker’s header was easily gathered by Opdal. 

Cummins made way for Carr, who had the lesser of the three parts involved in a fabulous equaliser.

His tenacity resulted in his knocking the ball down on the edge of the box to Finn, who prodded a ball through a sliver of space for Jack Byrne, who turned and swept the ball past Opdal in one liquid movement.

There was a small-scale pitch invasion by Rovers fans amid the jubilation, which will undoubtedly exercise Uefa’s disciplinary committee.

Four minutes time, fans were spilling onto the pitch again. Carr once again battled a lonely battle up front with a Brann defender – and won – and laid the ball off to the onrushing Byrne. He knocked it ahead of him for Gary O’Neill, whose first Rovers goal found the net via a deflection. 

There were a few nervy moments for Rovers amid five additional minutes that felt like they stretched out and into eternity, but Bamba fired a close-range shot over the bar and Lopes superbly blocked a late goal-bound effort. 

Rovers progress to play Apollon Limassol next week, and while they undoubtedly have their limitations, for as long as they have Byrne….they will feel they have a chance. 

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Lee Grace, Robert Lopes; Ethan Boyle; Dylan Watts (Aaron McEneff 62′), Greg Bolger, Jack Byrne; Sean Kavanagh; Ronan Finn (Gary O’Neill 80′), Graham Cummins (Dan Carr, 74′)

SK Brann: Hakon Opdal; Taijo Teniste (Azar Karadas, 83′), Bismar Gilberto Acosta Evans, Christian Eggen Rismark, Ruben Kristiansen; Fredrik Haugen, Amer Ordagic, Petter Strand (Ruben Jenssen 85;); Gilli Rólantsson, Veton Berisha, Gilbert Koomsoon (Karamoko Bamba,  HT)

Referee: Kari Joannesarson a Hovdanum (Faroe Islands) 

Attendaance: 5,135

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from Tallaght Stadium

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