Rovers land glamour date with AC Milan in Tallaght

by Dave Donnelly

Tallaght Stadium will host its most glamorous club fixture in a decade later this month as giants of European football, AC Milan, fly in to face Shamrock Rovers.

The most successful teams in Irish and Italian football history will square off on September 17th following Monday afternoon’s Europa League second qualifying round draw.

Almost ten years to the month since Milan’s fiercest rivals Juventus descended on Dublin 24 in the same competition, the Rossoneri will provide the opposition in a one-legged tie.

It’s a cruel irony that such a big game will be played out without any supporters in the ground as UEFA has ordered that all qualifying round games be played behind closed doors.

“These are the nights why you are in football,” Bradley said in an interview with extratime.com.

“A game against AC Milan does not come around very often so it is one that we are really looking forward to. We will put our best foot forward on the night.

“We will make sure we are ready for it and it will be fantastic. The disappointing thing is that there won’t be 7,500 here to witness it for obvious reasons.

“We would have rather have been drawn against the other two teams as we would fancy our chances against them but it is a one game and 11 versus 11 so anything can happen.

“We will play with no fear and we will put a game plan in place to go and get something out of the game. It is a free hit for us.”

Rovers made hard work of Finnish side Ilves Tampere in their first round game at Tallaght Stadium and only emerged victorious after a marathon 26-penalty shoot-out.

The Hoops scored an incredible 12 straight penalties as all ten players who remained following Liam Scales’ sending-off, including goalkeeper Alan Mannus, finding the net.

Penalties had become the best Rovers could hope for after they were forced to play all of extra time with ten men after Scales was dismissed for a second yellow card.

They had to come from behind twice during 90 minutes thanks to goals in either half from Graham Burke.

Lauri Ala-Myllymaki opened the scoring with a ninth-minute penalty after the Slovak referee farcically awarded a penalty when Joey O’Brien was struck in the face with the ball.

Rovers levelled within five minutes, however, as Ronan Finn charged the ball down deep in Ilves territory and Aaron Greene teed up his striker partner for a sublime curling finish.

The Hoops would dominate the remainder of the 90 minutes but fell behind against the run of play early in the second half when Joona Veteli scored on the counter.

Once more, Rovers hit back as Jack Byrne’s corner was flicked home at the near post by defender Lopes, but things looked grim as Scales was shown a deserved red late on.

Rovers hung on through injury time, loudly cheered by a dozen or so dedicated fans who had made their way down to the stadium and scaled the wall on the Square end to get a better view.

And though Byrne missed the opening penalty, Jair Silva missed the subsequent kick for Ilves, kicking in motion a remarkable sequence of 21 successful kicks.

After Alan Mannus had saved from Eemili Raittinen, up stepped former Irish international O’Brien to coolly dispatch his second penalty of the shoot-out.

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