Sligo’s Shane Blaney celebrates scoring the first goal of the game with his teammates. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
History makers

Sligo earn famous win over Motherwell to progress in Europe

They beat the Scottish side 3-0 on aggregate.

Sligo Rovers 2

Motherwell 0

(Sligo win 3-0 on aggregate)

Jessica Farry reports from The Showgrounds

SLIGO ROVERS have made history, progressing to the third round of the Europa Conference League qualifiers, beating Scottish Premier League side Motherwell 3-0 on aggregate.

Winning 1-0 from the first leg, Rovers ensured their place in the next round with an impressive 2-0 win on the night, creating history for the club.

It’s the first time they have progressed through two rounds in one campaign.

The Bit O’Red knew coming into this game that they were on the verge of creating history. Never before has a Rovers team gone through two rounds in the one European campaign, and this tie was their best chance in quite some time.

Having seen off part-time side Bala Town thanks to a penalty shoot-out at The Showgrounds two weeks ago, Rovers went into the second round against Motherwell as underdogs.

But they stunned Graham Alexander’s side at Fir Park last Thursday, bringing a 1-0 lead back to The Showgrounds.

Even still, the Steelmen were favourites heading into the second leg, particularly considering the pressure they faced in the aftermath of that shock defeat.

John Russell and his players remained confident but were still aware of the massive task at hand.

The former Rovers midfielder kept his faith in the same starting 11 that recorded that win over the ‘Well last week, while Graham Alexander made just one change with former Bohs man Ross Tierney coming into the team.

It was a dream start for the Bit O’Red, with their lead after two minutes coming from a somewhat unlikely source.

Defender Blaney stepped up to take the free-kick from 25 yards and blasted it past Liam Kelly in the ‘Well goals to send his side into dreamland.

Rovers were comfortable in the lead but had to deal with a sustained period of pressure from the Scots who were really not putting Luke McNicholas under pressure.

They did, however, have a goal chalked off for offside, but it was as close as they would come to levelling the score.

The hosts almost doubled their lead when Niall Morahan shook off a couple of players, picking out Keena who hit it first time straight into the arms of Kelly.

The Steelmen were struggling to take control of proceedings, with Rovers’ lead comfortable at the halfway point.

‘Well had to step it up in the second half, but they were playing against a Rovers side determined to hold on for a famous victory.

Again, the Bit O’Red had to sustain a spell of pressure but came through it with top marks.

And while Rovers were hanging on for the victory, all the pressure was relieved in the dying moments when substitute Max Mata was released, the New Zealander coolly tucking past Kelly to send the Showgrounds into chaos.

Rovers will take on Norwegian side Stavanger away next Thursday. But for now, the fans will enjoy a special occasion.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas, Lewis Banks, Shane Blaney, Garry Buckley, Paddy Kirk; Niall Morahan (Max Mata 69), David Cawley (Nando Pijnaker 79), Adam McDonnell (Kailin Barlow 79); Will Fitzgerald (Frank Liivak 90), Karl O’Sullivan; Aidan Keena.

Motherwell: Liam Kelly; Paul McGinn, Bevis Mugabi (Sondre Johansen 69), Rickie Lamie, Jake Carroll; Callum Slattery, Blair Spittal (Connor Shields HT), Barry Maguire (Sean Goss 69); Josh Morris, Kevin Van Veen, Ross Tierney (Joseph Efford 69).

Referee: Bojan Pandzic (Sweden).

Attendance: 3,876

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