Hoops aiming to deny Copenhagen massive pay day
IT'S hardly surprising that the players of FC Copenhagen were on edge in the final minutes of Wednesday's Champions League tie with Shamrock Rovers -- they know the consequences if they fluff their lines in Tallaght next week.
The Danish club benefited handsomely from their run to the final 16 of the competition last season; that journey is believed to have doubled their average turnover, generating another €20m.
Falling to an unseeded club at the third qualifying stage would be a catastrophe, which explains why there is genuine concern about taking just a 1-0 victory to Dublin for Tuesday's second leg.
Copenhagen remain odds-on to progress and should have key striker Dame N'Doye available, so they will understandably feel they have the ability to see out the task if they produce a disciplined display.
However, the Shamrock Rovers camp are aware of what the game means to Copenhagen and, by extension, realise that, the longer they remain within touching distance in the decider, the more the pressure will grow on Roland Nilsson's men.
Of course, there will be a few nerves for Rovers too with a full house expected, yet it's a different kind of burden.
With the safety net of a place in the Europa League qualifying round, it's not a win or bust situation. Victory would propel the Hoops to another level, but they are realistic about the overall picture.
Tuesday was about keeping the tie alive. Now, they have everything to gain.
"We can use the crowd to our advantage," said midfielder Stephen Rice, who came into the side and rewarded the manager's faith in him by producing a battling display.
"We know them now, we watched them, we know how they play. We caused them trouble in Copenhagen. The crowd were on their back a bit at the end, and it was easier to get closer to them to nick things off them."
Rice took encouragement from how the League of Ireland champions responded to a fourth-minute concession.
They shipped an early goal against Juventus last year and managed to keep their heads again to give a strong endorsement to the domestic game. In fact, they squandered several chances to score what would have been a precious away goal.
"You'd like to think people will take notice of the performance and not just look and be a bit surprised that it's just 1-0," continues the 26-year-old.
"If people looked in, they'll have seen we tried to play at the right time and in the right areas. It's really positive for the league and hopefully we go that next step."