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Sligo Rovers bow out of Europe with win over Viking at home

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Will Fitzgerald's cross that led to the Sligo Rovers goal. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Will Fitzgerald's cross that led to the Sligo Rovers goal. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Forza Rovers show their support. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Forza Rovers show their support. Pic: Carl Brennan.

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Will Fitzgerald's cross that led to the Sligo Rovers goal. Pic: Carl Brennan.

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Sligo Rovers bowed out of Europe on a positive note, restoring pride as the Bit O’Red beat Viking 1-0 at The Showgrounds in the second leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie.

The Norwegian side won the first leg 5-1 in Stavanger in Norway last week to pretty much seal their place in the play-off round.

An own goal just before half-time gave Rovers the lead, while it could have been more as the hosts missed a penalty in the second-half.

But, it was job done really as Rovers boss John Russell had asked his players to perform at home to reward fans for their support, and they did just that with a fine performance that saw them pick up their fourth European win of the year.

Even with the score 5-1 in Viking’s favour before the home leg, the Rovers fans packed The Showgrounds to show their appreciation for the Rovers side that created history this year.

John Russell’s side has given fans famous days out, and even increased the club’s profile along the way.

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Russell has had to deal with a number of injuries in recent weeks, and had to make four changes to the side  that beat 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 also named on the bench, while Max Mata, Robbie Burton, Adam McDonnell and Lewis Banks came into the team.

It was a very open start to the game, with the Bit O’Red looking most likely to score, although the visitors were holding onto possession well and for longer periods.

Luke McNicholas was rarely troubled in goals, while Patrik Gunnarson was kept on his toes by the Rovers attack.

Greg Bolger’s corner after eight minutes was just about cleared off the line, before Paddy Kirk and Mata linked up well with a vital interception putting an end to that move.

Mata got on the end of Kirk’s cross, nodding straight into the arms of Gunnarsson who made a comfortable save.

Mata, who scored twice against Bohs last Sunday, nodded wide from Liivak’s cross, before Rovers felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Mata was taken down, but the Serbian referee waved play on.

Just before half-time, Rovers went ahead.

A cross from Will Fitzgerald wasn’t dealt with by Viking, and it deflected off Sondre Flem Bjorshol to loop over Gunnarsson.

Rovers were by far the more impressive team in the first-half and deserved to go in ahead at the break.

Russell knew though that he would have to be somewhat cautious, although Viking could relax knowing that Rovers would have to score another three to at least force extra-tme.

Bolger fired a shot wide after the re-start, with Kailin Barlow’s volley just flashing wide of the goals.

A golden opportunity to extend the scoreline arrived on 74 minutes when Liivak was taken down and a penalty was awarded this time.

The Estonian international himself stepped up to take the penalty, but the goalkeeper read it well and went the right way to make the save.

Russell’s side were piling the pressure on towards the end, and again Viking enjoyed the bulk of possession but were really not troubling the Rovers rearguard too much.

In the end, Rovers held out to win the game, but lost the tie 5-2 on aggregate.

It was a positive end to what’s been a history breaking European campaign for the Bit O’Red, and one that fans will never forget.

Viking will now move onto the play-off round where they will meet FCSB of Romania.

For Rovers, the focus switches quickly to league action, with St Patrick’s Athletic up next on Sunday in Inchicore.

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).


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