Monday 23 April 2018

Benson determined to put on a show

Benson: Aiming for comeback
Benson: Aiming for comeback

Gareth Maher

Scattered around the walls of dressing room 4 in the Belfield Bowl are pennants, photos, and plagues of UCD's most historic nights. Collie O'Neill wants to add to that.

Trailing 1-0 on aggregate in their UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie with Slovan Bratislava, The Students are in high spirits ahead of the return clash in front of their own supporters.

The 'sold out' signs will be erected long before kick-off because it seems everyone wants to see O'Neill's young team turn that deficit around and progress through to the next round.

If they were to do that then the SSE Airtricity League First Division outfit would be guaranteed at least €630,000 in UEFA prize money. Although it's a chance to make history that is truly motivating the players.

"We've already proved a lot of people wrong, but we know how tough it is going to be. I think Slovan Bratislava probably underestimated us a little bit but I don't think they are going to underestimate us (tonight)," said O'Neill.

"We still have to score, so we can't be too defensive. Our plan worked for what we set out to do last week but this is a different game, this is our home patch, and we'd like to take the game a little bit more to Slovan."

Bratislava arrived for this game without the suspended Nicolas Gorosito, but equipped with a plan to overcome their hosts and set up a two-legged encounter with Russian side Krasnodar.

There is an expectation on them to do just that with their travelling media - 11 journalists were present at yesterday's press conference - hardly even mentioning a possible threat posed by UCD.

"We must avoid making the same mistakes that we did in the first leg. We have been successful in scoring goals in away matches, so hopefully we can do that," said Bratislava manager Jan Svehlik.

Lessons were learned from last week's first leg in the Slovakian capital and UCD captain Robbie Benson insists they know what to expect tonight. It's why he is not fearing their heavily-favoured opponents.

Even more than that, however, Benson admitted that tonight's game can put the small Dublin club firmly on the radar of Europe's elite clubs. A win can change perceptions about them.

"Every week we play here in the Bowl, we put on a show. We play the game in the right way and it would be great if more people got out to support us on a regular basis," said Benson.

Irish Independent

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