Sligo Rovers restore pride but brilliant European journey reaches end against Viking

The Norwegians progressed 5-2 on aggregate despite tonight’s 1-0 defeat at The Showgrounds.

Sligo Rovers players applaud their fans at full-time.
Sligo Rovers players applaud their fans at full-time.
Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Sligo Rovers 1

Viking FK 0

(Viking progress 5-2 on aggregate)

Jessica Farry reports from The Showgrounds

SLIGO ROVERS’ INCREDIBLE European journey has come to an end, although it ended on a positive note as Rovers restored a bit of pride with a 1-0 win over Viking in the second leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie.

The Norwegians progress to the play-off round with a 5-2 aggregate score over the tie.

The Bit O’Red came into the second leg playing for little more than pride, with manager John Russell urging his players to treat it like a clean slate and to put on a show for the home fans with what was a sell-out crowd.

Trailing 5-1 from the first leg, Rovers were keen to avoid suffering another heavy defeat.

The Rovers manager is in the midst of an injury crisis of sorts, and made four changes to the side that defeated Bohemian on Sunday.

Star striker Aidan Keena missed out through injury, while David Cawley and Niall Morahan were only fit enough for the bench.

Karl O’Sullivan was left on the bench. Lewis Banks and Adam McDonnell returned from injury, while Max Mata started and Robbie Burton, on loan from Dinamo Zagreb, started for the first time.

The visitors rested a couple of important players for their league game last Sunday against Sandefjord.

The impressive winger Zlatko Tripic returned to the starting 11, as did Samuel Fridjonsson. Markus Solbakken also came into the team, with Fredrik Torsteinbo, Niklas Sandberg and Kristoffer Lokberg all dropping to the bench.

It was an open start to the game, and Rovers were pressing high to try and get an early goal.

The hosts certainly went closest to scoring, but Viking were enjoying large spells of possession, although Luke McNicholas went untroubled for most of the first-half.

Mata carved out a couple of half chances early on, but Gunnarsson in the Viking goals was comfortable.

Russell would have been pleased with his side’s start to the game, and the Bit O’Red were rewarded for their patient build-up play just before half-time.

Will Fitzgerald worked his way forward, and his ball into the box took a wicked deflection off Sondre Bjorshol to take the ball into the net past Gunnarsson.

The home fans were on their feet, and this was exactly what Russell would have wanted from his players.

But the Bit O’Red would have been cautious going into the second-half. They were trailing 5-2 and Viking’s lead was not really under threat, but the Norwegians would still want to make sure.

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It was much of the same in the second-half, with Rovers enjoying the best chances.

Kailin Barlow fired over from a volley after Greg Bolger’s shot was off target.

Rovers were handed a massive opportunity to extend their lead when Frank Liivak won a penalty after being fouled in the box.

The Estonian’s penalty was well read by Gunnarsson who went the right way, and Lewis Bank’s follow up was well blocked.

Viking had a couple of half chances of their own, but really didn’t put too much pressure on McNicholas in goals.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas, Lewis Banks, Nando Pijnaker, Shane Blaney, Paddy Kirk, Adam McDonnell (Kailin Barlow, 61), Greg Bolger (Niall Morahan, 55), Robbie Burton, Frank Liivak, Max Mata (Cillian Heaney, 75), Will Fitzgerald (Karl O’Sullivan, 75).

Viking: Patrik Gunnarsson; Sondre Bjorshol, David Brekalo (Kris Lokberg 78), Viljar Vevante, Shayne Pattynama; Samuel Fridjonsson, Markus Solbakken, Harald Tangen (Fredrik Torsteinbo 83); Kevin Kabran (Niklas Sandberg 61), Zlatko Tripic (Edwin Austbo 78), Mai Traore (Daniel Karlsbakk HT).

Referee: Novak Simovic (Serbia).

About the author:

Jessica Farry

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