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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

First group stage defeat for Shamrock Rovers as Gent run riot in Belgium

KAA Gent 3-0 Shamrock Rovers

Gent decided to shower Shamrock Rovers with praise in the build up but showed no mercy in filleting them on the pitch.

The Buffalos ran amok here in Belgium and put the game to bed with two killer goals inside 17 minutes to leave the bottom-of-the-table Hoops chasing shadows.

Stephen Bradley had identified captain Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe as their dangerman and it wasn’t hard to see why as he landed blows with two brilliant individual goals.

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But Rovers gift-wrapped the first for him after Dan Cleary slipped when attempting to carry the ball out of the box after a short kick-out.

Bradley tipped Molde to be the strongest side of the group but they lost to a last minute Djurgardens winner in Stockholm.

That late goal has blown the group wide open but unless Rovers show a capability to bounce back, they risk being cast adrift.

On Wednesday, Gent boss Hein Vanhaezebrouck hailed Rovers as a progressive club going in the right direction, and one capable of entering the knockout mix.

Perhaps he was just killing them with kindness because his team lured Rovers into an ambush by showing them who's boss.

“It was obviously difficult,” said Rovers wing-back Andy Lyons.

“We had a number of chances and while I'm not saying we should have won the game, we made mistakes and they capitalised on them.

“On the other side of it, they made mistakes but unfortunately we couldn't capitalise on them. On another day, we could have.”

Rovers’ hopes of leaving here with any reward were done and dusted after two-quick fire Gent goals in the ninth and 17th minutes.

First, Malick Fofana got the better of Lee Grace and Daniel Cleary to lay Hyunseok Hong’s clipped ball to Hugo Cuypers who finished well.

But Gent’s second was handed to them on a plate and merely summed up Rovers’ frustrations in an opening half where they were always second best.

Alan Mannus played a short kick-out to Cleary on the edge of the six yard box but after controlling the ball, the centre-back lost his footing and slipped.

As he hit the deck, Cuypers latched onto the loose ball but his shot clipped Cleary and looped up for Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe who volleyed home from the edge of the box.

The captain, once of Norwich City and a former Belgian international, displayed great technique and the hosts were home and hosed even at that early juncture.

Rovers were struggling to get out of their own half and when they did they never got the chance to trouble goalkeeper Paul Nardi.

Their best move of that torturous opening half was a short corner routine between Dylan Watts and Jack Byrne.

But when Watts received the ball back in space inside the box, Cleary was under pressure from Cuypers at the back post and couldn’t get his header on target.

Chris McCann was hooked at half-time and replaced by Sean Kavanagh whose first contribution was to create a chance for Rory Gaffney.

The big striker drew a save from Nardi after smashing a headed Gent clearance back with interest.

By now, Rovers were much improved and forcing the issue with both Kavanagh’s vision and Gaffney’s pace troubling Gent who saw Byrne curl a shot wide from distance.

But that sliver of hope didn’t last long because Gent were just toying with Rovers and bagged their third goal after 65 minutes.

Malick Fofana got the better of Sean Gannon and pulled the ball back to the edge of the box where Odjidja-Ofoe stabbed an arcing ball high into Mannus’ net.

And if it wasn’t bad enough that Gent’s ultras unfurled a Rovers flag they nicked, they taunted the 1,200 travelling fans with ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.

Justin Ferizaj drew another save from Nardi late on but Gent had eased off the gas by that stage with the points safely in the bag.

Lyons said: “You obviously approach the game and try to get early goals yourself, but if they go the other way, it's tough. We have to learn from that and we have to move on.”

Focus turns to Sunday’s FAI Cup quarter-final away to Derry City and Lyons added: “We can't dwell on this result too much because it’s a massive game on Sunday.”


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