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Ex-Man City and Rangers attacker could start as Bradley plots Shamrock Rovers rescue act

Slovakia international Vladimír Weiss may feature in the crucial Champions League qualifier for Slovan Bratislava.

Vladimir Weiss featured in two of Slovakia's three matches at the Euros.
Vladimir Weiss featured in two of Slovakia's three matches at the Euros.
Image: PA

STEPHEN BRADLEY admits Shamrock Rovers did not reach their maximum levels in last week’s disappointing first-leg Champions league qualifying 2-0 loss against Slovan Bratislava.

The Slovaks were the superior team on the day. They enjoyed the better territory and possession and were clinical when presented with opportunities in front of goal, whereas the Hoops could only muster a couple of half chances.

And it could have been worse, but Alan Mannus’ last-minute penalty save ensured Rovers retained faint hopes of advancing to the next round.

Slovan might even be stronger this time around, with former Man City and Rangers player Vladimír Weiss — who made an impact off the bench in the first leg — slowly getting back to full fitness after a stint with Slovakia at the Euros and a potential starter for the big game.

Regardless, with up to 1,500 fans permitted at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow night (kick-off: 8pm), Rovers will be hoping to produce an improved performance in front of a home crowd.

“We just have to make sure we’re focused and we concentrate for 90 minutes,” Bradley said. “We switched off for two minutes over there and got punished for both [goals] so we have to make sure we’re focused and stick to the game plan.

“They are very good. There is no doubting that. They have been dominant in Slovakian football for the last number of years. They have a lot of internationals, but we knew all of that before we played them. You don’t get a real feel until you see them in the flesh and play them but they were what we thought they would be. But I still feel there is more in us and we will show that tomorrow night. Over there, we showed them too much respect and the conditions played a part as well, but they are a good side.

“It was incredibly hot [in Bratislava]. We have played in Cyprus but Cyprus was nothing like that as it was a lot calmer when it was game time. Game time in the arena was 36 degrees, which was incredible. So it was definitely a factor in the game, but you can’t control that.”

Asked on what could be improved from the first leg, Bradley added: “We did okay for parts of the game and you take into account the quality of the opposition and the heat, but we can be better in every aspect, we know that and I am sure we’ll show that tomorrow, without being naive and not respecting what they are.”

One Rovers player who did perform very well in the away leg was Alan Mannus, with the Northern Ireland international making some crucial saves including the all-important penalty stop.

“He’s vital to what we do. He’s the best in the country and has been for a number of years. He’s kept us in games at times throughout the years and we have won games because of Alan, picked up important points because of him, he has kept us in the tie, the save at the end keeps us in the tie.”

And Mannus will surely need to deliver another strong performance if Rovers are to progress.

Brazilian attacker Rafael Ratao was among Slovan’s standout performers in the first leg, as his brace sealed the victory for his side while Jaba Kankava has 96 caps for Georgia and Weiss (whose father of the same name is the manager) is similarly expected to pose a big threat.

“Their attacking players are really talented, really quick, but nothing has jumped out that we didn’t feel we didn’t know or that surprised us, they have real quality in the final third,” Bradley added.

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“We know how they play, we have watched a lot of their games and they won’t change, they always play the same way, the last 14-15 months they played the same way in every game.”

Weiss was one player who caught the eye in the first leg. The attacker was not 100% fit following his participation at the Euros, where he played in two of Slovakia’s three games and therefore was only introduced off the bench for the clash in Bratislava.

During the first leg, the 31-year-old former Man City and Rangers player showed impressive pace on the counter-attack to win the penalty in the dying seconds, before taking it himself and missing.

Does Bradley expect Weiss to start this time around?

“It depends where they are fitness-wise, they have had a bit of time off after the Euros. With [David] Holman injured, he could well start, he’s a top player. If his fitness is okay, I imagine he’ll be there or thereabouts.”

And while the odds may be stacked against them tomorrow night, the Shamrock Rovers manager believes his side can take heart from past European performances.

“Not even Milan, you can go back to Limassol when we went a goal behind, there have been other games in Europe where we’ve gone a goal behind in Tallaght and we have shown tremendous character to come from behind and win the game. So it’s not just the Milan game, it’s our European games in general. We have been very, very good. The other night, we were okay, but there is definitely more in the group. You could feel it in the dressing room afterwards and on the way home. We knew there was more in the group.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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