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‘Not a nice reflection on the group’ – Sligo thumped by Viking in Europe

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Shane Blaney of Sligo Rovers reacts after his side conceded a fourth goal

Shane Blaney of Sligo Rovers reacts after his side conceded a fourth goal

Shane Blaney of Sligo Rovers reacts after his side conceded a fourth goal

Sligo Rovers manager John Russell says his side can learn from their heavy defeat to Viking FK at Viking Stadion in Norway on Thursday night in the first leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie.

Although, by Russell's own admission, the 5-1 defeat was 'not a nice reflection on the group', the Bit O'Red boss still expressed his pride in his squad after what's been an unforgettable European campaign for his side.

After all, this is the first time in the club's history that a Sligo Rovers side has progressed through two rounds in Europe in the one campaign.

The club's European history was poor prior to this year, and that was something Russell was keen to try and change when he took over.

"I knew they were going to be a serious team. You still want to come in and have a game plan and try put it up to them, the way the game played out conceding early and two lads going off, the scoreline is not a nice reflection on the group, I can't fault the effort from my players. There's huge learnings and we need to take that going forward as a group and a team."

This was, as Russell said, always going to be a tough tie. And while he would have worked all week on a definite game plan, all that went out the window after four minutes when they went behind as Zlatko Tripic turned home from close range, and again on eight minutes when the Bit O'Red were 2-0 down as Fridjonsson finished well past McNicholas to stretch the home side's lead.

Rovers did settle into the game, but their task was made all the more difficult when Russell lost both Adam McDonnell and Garry Buckley to injury, the latter suffering what looked to be a serious injury, although Russell will wait another 24 hours or so to see the full extent.

Star striker Aidan Keena had a couple of half chances in the first-half as Rovers improved, but they conceded again early in the second-half as the hosts continued their pursuit of a comfortable lead.

Traore netted Viking's third in the 53rd minute, while Sandberg made it 4-0 on 53 minutes with the pick of the bunch as he curled his shot past McNicholas after fabulous build up play.

Around 65 or so Rovers fans travelled to Stavanger to cheer on their side, but they were drowned out by the 11,000 home fans in attendance who were enjoying what they were seeing.

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A late penalty was awarded to the visitors after substitute Frank Liivak was fouled in the box.

Captain David Cawley scored, and although a difficult night for his team, the Ballina man would have been keen to at least give the travelling support something to cheer on an evening where there were very few positives, in truth.

The second leg takes place next Thursday at The Showgrounds, and for Russell it will be about putting on a show for the home fans as their 2022 European campaign appears to be all but over.

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)


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