Bradley digests Brann challenge

by Dave Donnelly
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Europa League

Stephen Bradley says the ‘favourites’ tag won’t affect his Shamrock Rovers side as they head into the home leg of their Europa League qualifier with Norwegian side SK Brann.

Roberto Lopes’ last-minute header earned the Hoops a 2-2 draw in Bergen last Thursday and means they lead the tie on away goals going into the return leg in Tallaght.

Rovers were impressive in Norway despite trailing on two occasions, Lopes’ pressure having forced an own goal late in the first half to tie the game up for the first time, before conceding a penalty.

It could have been even better for the Hoops as striker Aaron Greene and captain Ronan Finn both missed good chances in the second half before Lopes swooped late on.

A likely meeting with the formidable Cypriot side Appolon Limassol, who have reached the group stages four years from the last six, awaits the winner in round two.

“It doesn’t matter to us if people look at us as favourites now,” Bradley said at Wednesday’s pre-game press conference.

“What we have to understand is that we’re playing a very good side. It’s going to be a difficult game but I said before the first leg it’s a tie that we fully believe we can win and nothing changes that.

“We still have to go and win this game. There’s no other way of approaching it and they’ll obviously think the same.

“You can’t sit in against a team like this. If you do that you’re asking for trouble and you’re going to get punished.”

Bradley saw enough of Brann in the first half to recognise their dangerman, Estonian international Taijo Teniste and Norway’s Veton Berisha having got on the scoresheet.

Teniste’s furious 25-yard strike had put the Norwegians in front against the run of play early on before Berisha won and scored a penalty moments after Rovers’ equaliser.

“You look at the team you’re playing against, their strengths and their weaknesses and we felt our system was the right way to play.

“We actually started well and then they scored a good goal. That knocked us a bit. We know our delivery is always good whether it’s Jack [Byrne], Dylan [Watts], Sean [Kavanagh] or Aaron McEneff.

“It’s about hitting our areas and getting into our areas early. We did that last week and got two goals from it.

“Attacking wise they have some dangerous players and I’m sure they’ll change their team again tomorrow night and the players they bring in will be just as strong.

“You have to respect that they’re a good side, they will create chances and we have to be ready for that but we’ll go to win the game like we did last week.

“If we get the crowd that we’re hoping for it’ll make for a really special atmosphere. It’s a massive game for us and hopefully we can get a big crowd to help us get over the line.”

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