Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

UCD retain hope despite late heartbreak

Slovan Bratislava 1 UCD 0

David Hudak, Slovan Bratislava, in action against Tomas Boyle, UCD (Sportsfile)
David Hudak, Slovan Bratislava, in action against Tomas Boyle, UCD (Sportsfile)
Robert Benson, UCD, in action against Kornel Salata, Slovan Bratislava. UEFA Europa League, 2nd Qualifying Round, 1st Leg, Slovan Bratislava v UCD
Nicolas Gorosito, Slovan Bratislava, in action against Ryan Swan, UCD
Dylan Watts and Robert Benson, UCD, in action against Slobodan Simovic, Slovan Bratislava

Paul Buttner

There was unkind, late Europa League heartbreak for UCD in Slovakia as they came within minutes of holding Slovan Bratislava to a remarkable draw.

Slovan were slick, even though they had to play with 10 men for over an hour; yet UCD only fell to an 86th-minute goal, cruelly deflected past Niall Corbet.

In an uncanny reversal of last week's passage at Dudelange in Luxembourg, it was UCD who played with an extra man for much of the game when Slovan's Argentinian defender Nicolas Gorosito was sent off.

Record Slovak league and cup winners Slovan fielded a side with over 200 senior caps, including a front two of Tamas Priskin and Robert Vittek with 39 internationals goals between them.

UCD started as they finished at Dudelange last week with both Michael Leahy and Tomas Boyle passed fit as expected, and they settled well, before enduring their first real scare on 10 minutes.

Vittek threaded Priskin through, with Boyle getting across to make a terrific block tackle on the Hungarian international.

With UCD showing little fear the home side became frustrated, culminating in a horrific thigh-high challenge by central defender Gorosito on UCD skipper Robbie Benson, which was rightly punished with a straight red card.

UCD then shaped their first real opening four minutes before the break with an incisive passing move which finished with Benson putting Mark Langtry in on the overlap on the left.

Keeper Jan Mucha did enough to put off the UCD left-back, whose toed effort at a stretch was off target as he took a knock from the Slovak international keeper.

Well-organised and keeping their shape, UCD weathered that early second-half pressure from Slovan before their best chance of the game arrived on 64 minutes.

The impressive Benson crossed from the right, and Ryan Swan just didn't get enough purchase on his snap-shot from close range.

Slovan pressed in the latter stages, with Corbet really coming into his own with some fine saves. And when Corbet wasn't there, Swan headed off the line from Milinkovic's in-swinging 79th-minute corner.

Corbet then made the stop of the night on 81 minutes when diving full stretch to palm away a thumping header from Kornel Salata from another corner.

But it came undone for UCD on 84 minutes when left winger Zrelák's venomous left-foot drive from the edge of the area deflected into the net past Corbet.

Slovan Bratislava - Mucha; Sekulic, Saláta, Gorosito, Podany; Milinkovic, Simovic (Hudak 44), Stefánik, Zrelák; Priskin (Zahumensky 90+2), Vittek (Kubik h/t).

UCD - Corbet; Leahy, Boyle Kouogun, Langtry; O'Neill; Mulhall, Watts (Cannon 85), Benson, Doyle; Swan.

Ref - L Silagava (Georgia).

Irish Independent

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