Shamrock Rovers welcome FC Flora Tallinn to Tallaght Stadium on Thursday as they seek to overturn a 4-2 UEFA Conference League Play-Off, first leg deficit. The Hoops will have 3,500 supporters in attendance who will be hoping to contribute to a come
Shamrock Rovers welcome FC Flora Tallinn to Tallaght Stadium on Thursday as they seek to overturn a 4-2 UEFA Conference League Play-Off, first leg deficit.
The Hoops will have 3,500 supporters in attendance who will be hoping to contribute to a comeback to remember and qualify for the group stages of the inaugural European competition. Rovers went into last weeks first round following nine successive victories, but left Estonia frustrated following a number of uncharacteristic errors left them with an uphill task.
Rovers Head Coach Stephen Bradley remains upbeat ahead of Thursdays having recently pegging back a two-goal deficit with Slovan Bratislava in similar circumstances last month. “We had this in Bratislava. It's half-time and we're two down but we know what we need to do to win the tie. We're just disappointed with the goals we have given away. But we're two down, it's half-time and we've been here before."
Flora will become the first Estonian side to reach the group stages of a European club competition if they can maintain their lead in Dublin.
The match kicks-off at 7.45pm Irish Time and is live on RTÉ2.
Flora were intent on making home advantage count at the A Le Coq Arena last week and pegged Rovers back after just 13 minutes. As Rovers attempted to play out from the back, Joey O’Brien’s pass was intercepted with the ball worked to Sergei Zenjov to slot home the games opener. The visitors settled and had a good spell of possession but were caught on the counterattack on 27 minutes and the impressive Martin Miller got on the end of the move to double Flora’s advantage.
Rovers continued to dominate possession and they got their rewards just before the half-time break. Tallinn were unable to deal with a corner and following attempts from Watts, Gaffney and O’Brien, the ball landed with Graham Burke who curled a shot into the corner of the net.
The second half remained evenly poised with both sides showing a willingness to attack. Rovers were undone again as they pushed for an equaliser with Rauno Sappinen netting his seventh European goal this season following a parried save from Alan Mannus.
Rovers star of the season so far, Liam Scales gave Stephen Bradley’s men a glimmer of hope as he headed home on the 85th minute following sustained Rovers possession. Once again, a lapse of concentration saw Rovers punished with just three minutes on the clock as Sappinen cut the ball back to Miller who added his second to restore Flora’s two goal advantage.
Analysis partner Wyscout provide some interesting stats from the first leg with Shamrock Rovers unable to make their possession count. The Hoops claimed 56% possession and almost 200 more passes than the home side. Stephen Bradley’s men had more attempts on goal (22 v 13), but Flora proved more clinical in their attempts.
Flora duo Martin Miller and Rauno Sappinen had a combined 5 shots resulting in 3 goals compared to Hoops duo of Gaffney and Burke with a combined 8 shoots resulting in 1 goal. Flora converted 4 of their 7 shots on target and exceeded their xG (expected goals) which stood at 2.68.
Both sides will benefit from no game at the weekend with Flora Manager Jurgen Henn giving his side Friday and Saturday off as they prepare for a battle in Dublin. “First we will have a couple of days off for the first time in a long time. The players will rest first and forget about it in some way and then we will start preparing next week”.
Henn is expecting a tough game on Thursday as he hopes to guide his side to the group stages. “The game will definitely be more combative, with a lot of balls into the box. We have to be ready for a hard fight.”
10 Years On
Hoops captain Ronan Finn and goalkeeper Alan Mannus both played the last time Flora came to town. Rovers defeated the Estonians 1-0 thanks to a Chris Turner goal with Alan Mannus saving a Flora penalty in a game where away goals may have proved pivotal. That result was followed up with a 0-0 draw in Tallinn in the year Rovers progressed to the UEFA Europa League group stages.
The Michael O’Neill managed team on that day was: Alan Mannus; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Enda Stevens; Stephen O’Donnell, Ronan Finn, Chris Turner, Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg, Dean Kelly.
Subs: Ryan Thompson, Dan Murray, Stephen Rice, Ciaran Kilduff, Gary O’Neill, Conor McCormack, Gary McCabe