Rovers draw little comfort as misses prove costly not enough
Despite a courageous display, laced with craft and tenacity, Shamrock Rovers fell just short last night in the Friends Arena in Stockholm as they bravely bowed out of the Europa League.
Ultimately, having taken and early lead, Stephen Bradley's side were left to rue two missed chances in 90 minutes as the Allsvenskan leaders AIK, laced with internationals, survived to win a riveting tie in extra-time.
With Roberto Lopes coming in as the one change, as manager Bradley went with three at the back, an energetic Rovers had a good shape to them from the off.
Enjoying good possession and passing the ball well, they duly got the reward their start deserved to stun the home crowd by taking a 19th-minute lead from their first corner of the game.
Sean Kavanagh's delivery was superbly flighted with pace to the back post where Dan Carr turned to tuck the ball home with a delightful right-foot finish.
Carr was there again minutes later, flicking on a free kick from Kavanagh, but this time too close to Oscar Linner in the AIK goal.
Clearly flustered by the visitors' vigour and pressing, an unforced AIK mistake should have seen Rovers double their lead on 33 minutes. Rasmus Lindkvist's backpass put Joel Coustrain straight in on goal down the inside right channel.
But the Hoops winger's angled shot was into the chest of Linner as the Swedes were relieved to scramble the ball clear to be soon greeted by loud boos from the crowd on the half-time whistle.
AIK tried to up their tempo on the resumption but laboured to find holes in the Rovers defence Kristoffer Olsson, one of two changes for the home side just past the hour mark, had claims for a penalty on 64 minutes but were not entertained by the referee.
Frustration mounting, AIK were shooting from distance - an Alexander Milosevic 40-yard drive comfortable for the composed 16-year-old Gavin Bazunu in the Rovers goal.
As the pressure mounted, Milosevic drove a fierce shot wide before Olsson played fellow substitute Nicolas Stefanelli to toe feebly wide.
Rovers then spurned a gilt-edged chance to win it in normal time on 87 minutes.
Another excellent cross from Kavanagh found substitute Aaron Greene whose downward header flew wide off the butt of a post.
Having blown their chance in 90 minutes, a tired Rovers were undone within three minutes of extra-time.
Tarik Elyounoussi threaded a pass through for the run of Stefanelli whose shot had enough power to beat Bazunu despite the keeper getting a touch to it.