Sligo Rovers 1 Viking 0 (Viking win 5-2 on aggregate)
A memorable European campaign came to an end for Sligo Rovers at a sold-out Showgrounds with a morale-boosting defeat of Norwegian side Viking FK.
Winger Will Fitzgerald got the only goal of the game to secure Rovers’ fourth win from six Europa League Conference ties this season, though Viking’s thumping 5-1 win in Stavanger last week meant that the Norwegian side’s progress to the final qualifying round was rarely in doubt.
But – after defeats of Welsh side Bala Town and Scottish Premier League side Motherwell already in the competition - the Bit O’Red went out battling. And having scored the last of the six goals in the dying stages of the game in Norway last week, they almost had another inside the opening ten minutes here when Greg Bolger’s corner curled under the crossbar and had to be cleared off the line.
Striker Max Mata was on the mark twice as Rovers beat Bohemians in the league at the same venue last Sunday, and he was rewarded with a role from the start this time around.
He was causing trouble again mid way through the first half when he got on the end of a Paddy Kirk cross, but the Viking goalkeeper was equal to the effort.
The opening goal eventually came just before the half-time break, though it took some good fortune as Fitzgerald’s delivery spun off a defender and looped into the net.
If not exactly nervous, the goal did leave the visitors a little uneasy in the second half, and Rovers had a great chance to test their mettle further when they were awarded a penalty with 15 minutes remaining.
Frank Liivak was fouled in the area and dusted himself down to take the spot-kick, but Patrik Sigurdur Gunnarsson made the save as his side progressed 5-2 on aggregate.
SLIGO: McNicholas, Banks, Pijnaker, Blaney, Kirk, McDonnell (Barlow 61), Bolger (Morahan 55), Burton, Fitzgerald (O’Sullivan 79), Liivak, Mata (Heaney 79).
VIKING: Gunnarsson, Pattynama, Brekalo (Lokberg 79), Vevatne, Bjoershol, Kabran (Sandberg 61), Fridjonsson, Solbakken, Tangen (Torsteinbo 84), Traore (Karlsbakk ht), Tripic (Austbo 79).
REF: N Simovic (Serbia).