Partizan Belgrade 1:2 Rovers
Thursday, 25 August 2011 19:00
Rovers in historic win in Serbian Capital...
Partizan Belgrade 1 - Volkov 34'
Rovers 2 - Sullivan 57' O'Donnell pen. 114'
After extra time - Rovers win 3-2 on aggregate
UEFA Europa League Play Off - 2nd Leg
Belgrade - Thursday 25th August 2011
Hoops Line out
16 Ryan Thompson
2 Pat Sullivan
3 Enda Stevens
4 Craig Sives
5 Dan Murray (c)
7 Gary McCabe
21 Ronan Finn
6 Stephen Rice
20 Billy Dennehy
18 Chris Turner
9 Gary Twigg
10 Karl Sheppard for Dennehy ht
8 Stephen O'Donnell for McCabe 68'
11 Ciaran Kilduff
for Twigg 112'
1 Richard Brush
19 Gary O'Neill
Pat Sullivan unbelievable volley for equalising goal
Sensational night in Belgrade as Rovers produced the display of a lifetime to come from a goal down and win to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League. Pat Sullivan's wonder volley and Stephen O'Donnell's coolly taken penalty in extra-time will go down in history as Rovers stood firm under a lot of pressure from the Serbian Champions especially in the first 15 mins of extra-time.
The first 20 minutes in the stifling heat was a real test for the Hoops and when Ryan Thompson’s kick-out went straight to Jovancic and he ran in on goal to fortunately shot wide. Thompson punched away Volkov's cross after 8 minutes but Finn offered some respite for Rovers when he forced the keeper to save at his near post on 17 minutes.
Rovers Jamaican 'keeper made amends for his earlier error when he produced a fantastic save to deny Volkov after 29 minutes and 4 minutes later Billy Dennehy could have done better with his shot from just outside the box.
The home sides dominance paid dividends after 34 minutes when Volkov headed past Thompson but there was no Rovers defender on the left-hand post to defend the header.
The Hoops hit back and forced a corner but Dan Murray was adjudged to have committed foul on the 'keeper.
The second-half was a different proposition altogether. Right from the start the Hoops held the ball better and the introduction of Karl Sheppard showed the Hoops intent. On 48 minutes a great cross from Stevens saw Chris Turner head the ball off the outside of the post. But a minute later Vukic knocked a great chance over the bar from close range.
Rovers continued to push forward and when Gary Twigg won a corner after 57 minutes Gary McCabe whipped a ball over which was headed out only for Pat Sullivan to meet the ball from 30 yards out and send his volley low into the corner of the net for a sensational equaliser.
The home side knew that they were in a game now and they hit back with Illic shooting low for Thompson to dive low to save.
Enda Stevens was wrongfully booked and conceded a free-kick in the 65th minute but Partizan couldn't take advantage.
Stephen O'Donnell was introduced in the 68th minute and two minutes later he made a fabulous challenge to deny Babovic a shot on goal from only 6 yards out. A minute later Chris Turner conceded a soft free-kick just outside the box and Tomic shot narrowly wide.
Babovic was a nuisance to the Rovers defence and when he bore down on goal on 75 minutes his final shot went wide of Thompson's goal. Pat Sullivan crossed for Gary Twigg on 78 minutes but the hard-working Scotsman couldn't get his header in.
As the game entered the last ten minutes Ronan Finn showed his class when he won possession down the left to race into the box and although his low cross beat the 'keeper the ball was cleared. However from the resultant corner the home side broke and only a last ditch tackle from Pat Sullivan cleared the danger.
The last ten minutes of normal time saw Partizan throw everything at the tiring Hoops defence but hard work and good fortune prevailed. On 87 minutes Jovancic got between Sives and Sullivan but he headed over the bar. Stephen O'Donnell made another decisive tackle in the box in the 89th minute as Rovers held on but Partizan couldn't make the breakthrough.
Extra-time beckoned. The first 15 minutes of extra-time was tortuous for the small band of Hoops supporters in the main stand as the full-time Patizan team turned the screw on Rovers. A Tomic free-kick from just outside the box hit the inside of the Hoops post and the follow-up shot in front of goal went wide.
Ryan Thompson then clashed with substitute Markovic at the edge of his area but the Referee waved play-on. A free-kick from Sullivan saw Turner ship a hard knock as Sives headed the ball straight to the 'keeper. Pat Sullivan then denied Jovanic a header as Rovers dug deeper than they have ever have before.
The Hoops were obviously tired now but Thompson was alert to block a close-range effort at his right-hand post and Partizan forced three corners at the end of the half but the heroic Hoops defence stood firm.
The second-half of extra-time saw both sides slug it out with substitute Ciaran Kilduff added some pace to the Hoops attack. In the 109th minute Jovancic was well placed at the back post but his low shot was well saved by Thompson. A minute later the Hoops forced a corner and Dan Murray was unlucky to see his shot go over the bar.
The game finally entered its decisive moment when Enda Stevens floated a ball up the left-hand side for Kilduff to run into the box and force the 'keeper to parry his shot and Karl Sheppard followed up to gather control the ball but he was taken down and a penalty was awarded.
If anyone doubted the strength of Rovers squad this season then all doubts were set aside as Stephen O'Donnell coolly converted the spot-kick to send the world-wide Hoops into ecstasy.
The home side were in disarray now and Partizan’s Medo was rightfully shown a Red Card for a disgraceful stamp on Karl Sheppard.
The final whistle sounded and Rovers could celebrate their achievement in reaching the Group Stages of the Europa League in what was an epic battle in Belgrade.