Ten-man Shamrock Rovers hold firm in Europa Conference League thriller with Ghent

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The boos from the Ghent supporters at half-time were music to the ears of the Rovers players.

but, in truth, they needed to get down the tunnel and regroup at this point after an action-packed first half.

It started off brilliantly for the hosts, with the prospect of leaving the group stage without a goal taken out of the equation in three minutes with a goal that highlighted just how good their game was in the opening exchanges.

Effectively moving the ball out of the defence, they scatter the ball to the right-back department where Neil Farrugia found space throughout the half. He went on a driving run and fed Richie Towell who ran through the back post for Rory Gaffney to go home.

With the opposing team needing a win to stay alive, this set up an intriguing game. Naturally enough, they were going to commit corps to the mission to avoid defeat but they also left gaps.

With Rovers attacking players prepared for the occasion, an entertaining period followed with Gent pressing and threatening but also getting away with one when a Gaffney shot was hit against the post by Paul Nardi.

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Conference League Group F match at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Thursday October 27, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Shamrock. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior permission of the rights holder.” srcset=”https://www.independent.ie/incoming/c92b4/42100878.ece/AUTOCROP/w620/SOCCER%20Sh%2032.jpg 620w,https://www.independent.ie/incoming/c92b4/42100878.ece/AUTOCROP/w1240/SOCCER%20Sh%2032.jpg 1240w” data-sizes=”auto”/>


Gent’s Joseph Okumu (left) and Shamrock Rovers’ Andy Lyons battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa Conference League Group F match at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Thursday October 27, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Shamrock. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior permission of the rights holder.

Gent’s Joseph Okumu (left) and Shamrock Rovers’ Andy Lyons battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa Conference League Group F match at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Thursday October 27, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Shamrock. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior permission of the rights holder.

The Galwegian, a strong Player of the Year candidate, was benched for home and away games with Molde due to league commitments and was determined to make up for lost time.

Bradley had to play it here regardless with Aaron Greene, Graham Burke and Aidomo Emakhu on a long injury list that included first-choice midfielders Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn and Gary O’Neill.

They could no longer avoid heartbreak in that department, but Dylan Watts and Chris McCann were both forced to retire either side of the half hour mark.

It was desperate bad luck given their key roles with Watts a key link between midfield and attack and McCann the constant influence in front of the back three. Roberto Lopes and Alan Mannus had already made heroic blocks before their exit and the workload increased after their departure.

Lee Grace was featured with Sean Hoare moved from defense to McCann’s position alongside Sean Kavanagh who played manly after sending a heavy first-half kick. Justin Ferizaj replaced Watts.

Enthusiasm and effort were not lacking, but valuable positional awareness was lost from the core of the team.

Bradley’s charges started the second half under siege, with Gent swelling their lines from promising positions with a useful dash of desperation. It meant they were sloppy in terms of house watching and the Hoops looked extremely dangerous on the counter with Richie Towell and the rampaging Farrugia so close to the end of the breaks.

Indeed, as the game entered its final quarter, the Hoops had regrouped in a promising position with visiting boss Hein Vanhaezebrouck growing increasingly exasperated as the chances slipped away.

But their luck would change. Ferizaj’s eagerness to follow through on a tackle resulted in the Austrian official being shown a second yellow card. He gave the official a decision to make given he was on a booking, but while his protests are understandable, it’s a valuable lesson for the 17-year-old.

The hill leading to the finish line was now closer to a mountain, and from the next phase of play Gent equalized with sub-hyunseok Hong timing a far post run to head home on edge wearing.

With no experienced midfielders or forwards on the bench to freshen things up, Rovers had no choice but to just dig in and try to hang on with Lopes, Dan Cleary and Grace at the looking for as much protection as possible against the overworked players in front of them as Gent. moved him from side to side.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Cleary, Lopes, Hoare; Farrugia, Towell, McCann (Grace 34), Lyons; Towell, Watts (Ferizaj 24); Gaffney.

Kindly : Nardi, Okumu, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Godeau; Hauge (Hong 61), Marreh (Kums 45), Odjidja-Ofoe (Van Den Bergh 87), Samoise; Hjulsager; Salah, Deposit.

Arbitrator: Julian Weinberger (Austria).

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