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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul Lennon

Viking 5 Sligo Rovers 1: Tough night for Bit O'Red in Europa Conference League

A sobering night for Sligo Rovers in Norway all but ended their Europa Conference League adventure after the first leg.

In the city frequently referred to as the globe's most expensive due to its status as home to the country's oil industry, the Bit O' Red were left counting the cost of a first 20 minutes that saw them lose two goals and as many men through injury in Adam McDonnell and Garry Buckley.

In truth, even had the influential pair remain on the pitch it's hard to see how the outcome would have been much different as Sligo slumped to their joint worst defeat in a single game in Europe.

Viking were sharper, more clinical, physically stronger and technically superior to John Russell's men who found themselves facing opposition several levels above Motherwell.

Viking will travel for the second leg of this third qualifying round tie with little to fear even if Sligo never stopped seeking to push forward- a ploy that did see them score an 89th minute penalty through David Cawley.

Sligo's nightmare opening quarter began after just four minutes when Luke McNicholas failed to deal with Kevin Abran's low drive from the right, the keeper's loose parry pounced upon by Zlatko Tripic who gratefully fired high into the net from a few yards out.

The unfortunate McDonnell had scarcely left the pitch in the eighth with what appeared to be a hamstring injury when Viking struck for their second goal.

Tripic tuned provider by leaving Lewis Banks in his slipstream to whip in a pacy cross that Samuel Fridjonsson controlled impressively before beating McNicholas with a thunderous right foot shot.

Sligo's response was to be admired with Keena's effort saved by Patrik GUnarsson before Mata's flick allowed him to drive just a few inches over the bar in the 18th minute.

But The Bit O' Red's fortunes received yet another serious blow within 60 seconds as Buckley had to leave the pitch following his challenge on the dangerous Tripic that earned the centre half a booking.

Nando Pijnaker replaced Buckley and immediately found himself manning an over-run visitors' rearguard.

Sligo now displayed welcome and commendable spirit and discipline to regain their shape, drop deep and plug the gaping holes at the back.

They might have even halved the deficit but Gunarsson saved low from Mata when Cawley's corner dropped at his feet with Keena's 35th minute from 25 yards screamer dipping just the wrong side of the bar.

if Russell's men hoped that there might be a respite for them on the restart then the interval introduction by Viking of striker Mai Traore ended that.

The centre forward ran riot with his pace, clever flicks and link play giving Pijnaker and Shane Blaney a whole new bundle of problems to deal with.

Diagonal balls had given Sligo major issues in the first half and they again failed to handle Fridjonsson's brilliant pass to Tripic whose pull back from the endline was calmly finished by Traore in the 53rd minute.

By the hour mark it was 4-0 with Traore and Fridjonsson combining with speed to set up substitute Niklas Sandberg who coolly curled his left foot shot home from 14 yards out.

Sligo were now potentially facing a hammering but McNicholas's alertness saw him deny another replacement Kristoffer Lokberg in the 69th minute when left one on one with the keeper.

Viking continued to seek a fifth goal and it arrived in the 86th minute when fellow substitute Edwin Austbo struck a delightful right foot drive from the edge of the box beyond McNicholas.

A minute from time, Cawley despatched his right footed penalty - correctly given for Viljar Vevatne's foul on Will Fitzgerald - high into the net to earn Sligo some consolation from a 90 minutes that left them reeling.

Viking: Gunarsson; Bjorshol (Austbo 78), Brekalo, Vevatne; Kabran (Sandberg H/T), Fridjonsson, Solbakken, Tangen (Lokberg 61), Pattynama; Tripic (Kvla-Egeskog 78), Karlsbakk (Traore H/T). Subs - Ostbo, Ree, Torsteinbo, Vikstol, Paulson.

Sligo Rovers: McNicholas; Banks, Buckley (Pijnaker 22), Blaney, Kirk; McDonnell (Mata 8), Cawley, Morahan; Fitzgerald, Keena (Bolger 75), O'Sullivan (Liivak 75). Subs - Brush, Walsh, Horgan, Byrne, Burton, Healy, Barlow, Clancy.

Referee: R Petrescu (Romania).


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