Viking FK 5-1 Sligo Rovers
It looks as though Sligo Rovers’ European journey is all but over after John Russell’s side suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat away to Viking of Norway in the first leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round game.
It was a tough night for Russell’s side who endured a nightmare-ish start to the game, and were unable to match the levels shown by their Norwegian counterparts.
Coming into this game n Stavanger, Russell knew his side were underdogs, coming up against one of Norway’s most successful clubs who last week knocked Sparta Prague out of the same competition.
Rovers’ win over Motherwell would have given Viking some cause for concern, but truthfully the Norwegian side were far too strong for their visitors.
And it looks as though Roves’ incredible European campaign in 2022 is coming to an end.
Russell stuck with the same starting 11 that took on Motherwell last week, with Viking made just one change for this tie.
Winger Zlatko Tripic was named in the starting 11, and is one of the club’s most popular players.
The Rovers boss, as usual, did his homework on his opponents. He knew this would be a step above teams Rovers had faced in their previous rounds.
What he didn’t expect, though, was for everything to go so drastically wrong just minutes into the game.
Viking were applying the pressure almost instantly after kick-off, with Tripic proving to be a handful from the start.
There was a need here for the proverbial riding out the storm, but Rovers didn’t even have time to settle into the game before Viking pulled ahead.
Again, causing Rovers problems down the right hand side, the ball came to Tripic who tapped past Luke McNicholas to put the hosts ahead in front of a crowd of over 11,000.
While Russell on the sideline was telling his players to stay calm and stick to the game plan, that plan received another blow minutes later when midfielder Adam McDonnell had to come off after picking up an injury.
In his place, Max Mata was brought on, but another set-back followed as Rovers struggled to get to grips with the game.
With eight minutes played, they found themselves 2-0 down as Viking had more joy inside the Rovers box.
This time, Fridjonsson fired his shot into the net to put daylight between the two sides.
Rovers were still looking to catch their opponents on the break, and came close as Aidan Keena burst forward to run onto a clearance.
As he carried the ball forward, it was as if it got stuck under his feet and the chance went away.
Whatever about their chances at 2-0 down, their task became all the tougher when a serious injury sustained by Garry Buckley forced him off the field after a lengthy stoppage.
There was no immediate word at full-time about an early prognosis, but it’s likely Rovers will have a clearer picture 24 hours later.
As the Bit O’Red grew into the game, Keena dragged a long range effort wide of the post, with Rovers really having to make do with half chances at this stage.
Russell would have been pleased with the improvement in his side as the half went on, but the concession of the third goal on 53 minutes was the real killer blow.
Traore, who came on as a sub in the second-half, coolly tucked his shot in to make it 3-0, with Sandberg’s stunning finish after brilliant build up play probably the pick of the bunch as Rovers were now 4-0 down.
Russell made changes, with Greg Bolger and Frank Liivak coming on with around 17 minutes left to see if there was anyway Rovers could keep this tie alive.
It was very much one way traffic, and the fifth goal arrived on 86 minutes for Viking as substitute Edwin Austbo compounded Rovers’ misery on a difficult night.
The game was into the final stages when Rovers were awarded a penalty as Frank Liivak was brought down in the box, with David Cawley scoring the penalty in front of the 65 or so travelling fans.
Rovers will have to prepare again to take on Viking next Thursday at The Showgrounds in the second leg of this third qualifying round, although it would seem as though this tie is likely to be beyond Rovers who had hoped to keep the tie alive for the home leg.
Attention will very quickly turn to Sunday’s league game as Rovers will take on Bohemian at The Showgrounds at 4.45pm.
Viking FK: Patrik Gunnarsson, Sondre Flem Bjorshol (Edwin Austbo, 77), David Brekalo, Viljar Vevatne, Kevin Aleksander Kabran (Niklas Sandberg, 46), Samuel Fridjonsson, Markus Solbakken, Harald Tangen (Kristoffer Lokberg, 61), Shayne Pattynama, Zlatko Tripic (Simen Kvia-Egeskog, 77), Daniel Karlsbakk (Mai Traore, 46).
Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas, Lewis Banks, Shane Blaney, Garry Buckley (Nando Pijnaker, 22), Paddy Kirk, Karl O'Sullivan (Frank Liivak, 75), David Cawley, Adam McDonnell (Max Mata, 7), Niall Morahan, Will Fitzgerald, Aidan Keena (Greg Bolger, 75).
Referee: Radu Marian Petrescu (Romania)