Sunday 22 July 2018

Rovers left with it all to do in Sweden

Shamrock Rvs 0 AIK 1

Joel Coustrain of Shamrock Rovers in action against Haukur Hauksson of AIK. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joel Coustrain of Shamrock Rovers in action against Haukur Hauksson of AIK. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It might be a stretch to suggest that Shamrock Rovers were taught a lesson in Europe last night, but even still, this young team will have learned a lot about what it takes to win at this level.

Over the course of the 90 minutes, the home side dominated AIK, yet it was the Swedes who created the one real quality moment.

For all of their possession, Rovers couldn't find a way through the stubborn AIK rearguard.

The visitors came with a plan to sit back and hit Rovers on the break. It was simple but effective, and it leaves Stephen Bradley's side on the verge of exiting at the first qualifying round.

AIK are unlikely to be as defensively minded in their own back yard, but there were enough positives from the Hoops performance to suggest that they are not out of the tie just yet.

"I thought we played well enough to get something out of the game, to be fair," Bradley said.

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"I'm disappointed with the goal because the boy who scores it, that's his game. He runs off the ball and he's very good at it. We had worked on stopping it but we switched off for a minute and got punished.

"They're a very good side. We know they'll be better again but I believe we can cause them problems over there."

Dylan Watts, who was making his Rovers debut following his move from Bohemians, was excellent throughout and he tested the AIK goalkeeper after eight minutes with a dipping volley.

The hosts were much the better side in the opening half, yet they were almost caught out twice inside a minute before the break.

Ahmed Yasin of AIK in action against Sam Bone of Shamrock. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ahmed Yasin of AIK in action against Sam Bone of Shamrock. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ahmed Yasin's shot was deflected narrowly wide by Lee Grace, before Henok Goitom fired harmlessly over the bar when in a good position.

It was a rare spell of pressure but Rovers withstood it and shortly after the restart they went close twice themselves. Again the lively Watts was at the heart of it. Ronan Finn found the former Leicester City player and his shot was deflected over.

Oscar Linner in the AIK goal then almost conceded a howler when he allowed Watts' shot from outside the area spill through his grasp, but the goalkeeper managed to get back in time to keep the ball out.

At the other end, the Rovers keeper, 16-year old Gavin Bazunu, was having a relatively quiet evening, but he was called upon on the hour mark and he came up with the goods again to firstly push away a dangerous cross and then to keep out Yasin's effort.

Bazunu was helpless to stop AIK taking the lead after 74 minutes however, and it came against the run of play when Daniel Sundgren expertly finished to end the teenager's run of four straight clean sheets.

Bradley rolled the dice in the closing stages and handed a second Rovers debut to Aaron Greene, and he almost snatched a draw but fired straight at Linner.

That miss late on summed up what was a frustrating evening for the Hoops. Having dominated for so long, they lacked the cutting edge in the final third and now have it all to do in Sweden next Thursday.

SHAMROCK ROVERS - Bazunu; Boyle, Grace, O'Brien (Lopes 83); G Bolger (A Bolger 77), Bone; Kavanagh, Watts, Finn (capt), Coustrain; Carr (Greene 75).

AIK - Linner, Sundgren, Milosevic, Karlsson, Jansson, Hauksson; Olsson, Adu; Yasin (Advic 77); Elyounoussi (Silva 90), Goitom (capt).

REF - A Harkam (Austria)

Irish Independent

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