No holding back for Rovers on Europa trip to Limassol

by Dave Donnelly

Stephen Bradley insists Shamrock Rovers will go to Apollon Limassol looking to win on Thursday night despite the temptation to sit on their 2-1 lead from the first leg in Tallaght.

Tallaght witnessed yet another famous European night on Thursday when the Hoops came from a goal down to take a deserved lead to Cyprus through Lee Grace and Roberto Lopes.

Defender Grace chose an opportune time to head in his first of the season just eight minutes after Fotis Papoulis had fired in a spectacular opener for the visitors.

Lopes nodded home Jack Byrne’s free kick just before the hour and the Hoops could easily have had more, particularly after Esteban Sachetti was sent off for an ugly challenge on Byrne.

Grace saw a second header bounce off the top of the crossbar while substitute Aaron Greene was unable to finish after rounding goalkeeper Joel Mall late on.

Bradley acknowledged that conditions in Limassol will be much more challenging, despite the 8pm local time (6pm Irish time) kick-off, but their aim will remain the same.

“We’ll go to win the game,” Bradley said.

“It might be a different tempo to the game with the heat and everything else. Our game management is going to have to be good at certain times, But we’ve shown we will create chances.”

Rovers appeared to catch the Cypriots, who are Europa League group stage regulars and beat both Lazio and Marseilles last year, by surprise.

The visitors made a dream start to the tie when captain Papoulis capitalised on some slack play to slam a spectacular half-volley into the top corner.

The Hoops were the better team for much of the remainder and visibly frustrated their vastly more wealthy opponents with intricate passing and the sublime skill of Byrne.

Byrne’s corner led Grace to send his header crashing in off the post for the leveller, and he again set up Lopes for the glancing header that completed the turnaround.

The midfielder was the target for Sachetti’s two-footed horror tackle late, the midfielder having been lucky to escape red earlier for an elbow to the back of Aaron McEneff’s head.

If the Hoops’ slick passing and willingness to play the ball on the deck even in tight situations took the visitors by surprise, Bradley insists they simply didn’t do their homework.

“If anyone has watched us over the last 12 months, they shouldn’t be surprised at how we play. Whether it’s a big game or a not so big game, we always play in the same way.

“In these games, your decisions have to be quicker as the press is quicker, but we don’t. I just thought it was our intensity caught them by surprise.

“We felt they were there for the taking. When it was 2-1, we felt it was there to go and get one more, but it wasn’t to be.”

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