Zlatan goal paves the way as AC Milan see off Shamrock Rovers in Europa League
Europa League second qualifying round
GOALS from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Turkey international Hakan Çalhanoglu were enough to knock Shamrock Rovers out of the Europa League at Tallaght Stadium last night.
Rovers had gone close through Aaron Greene – who forced a fine save from AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after a sliderule through-ball from the outstanding Jack Byrne (who must have impressed the watching Stephen Kenny) – before Ibrahimovic sent a right foot shot past Alan Mannus to give the Italian giants the lead after 22 minutes.
Mannus was beaten again shortly afterwards but Aaron McEneff cleared off the line after Ibrahimovic had crossed for Samuel Castillejo. But it wasn't all one-way traffic. Greene forced another save from Donnarumma after he tried his luck from a narrow angle with Ronan Finn screaming for him to pull the ball back.
Rovers defender Roberto Lopes headed wide and Ibrahimovic and Finn both missed chances before the half-time whistle went with the visitors a goal up.
And AC Milan – who begin Serie A at the weekend – upped the tempo considerably in the second half. Their pace and workrate caused the Rovers defence a lot of problems and the pressure paid of when Calhanoglu smashed a shot past Mannus from the edge of the box.
Greene forced the AC Milan goalkeeper into another save after a cross from Dylan Watts but the Italians held on for a deserved 2-0 win.
“I felt we were excellent to be fair,” said Rovers manager Steven Bradley.
“Two bits of quality won them the game and that's what you have to deal with when you come up against a team like that. But Aaron (Greene) had a chance early, it was a great save but who knows what happens if he scores that.
“Overall, I thought we were very, very good and we showed we can play at this level and that was the pleasing thing. They pressed so well and with a really high-intensity and you have to be really switched-on and make sure your angles are good and most of all you have to be brave and I thought our players were that. I thought they showed tremendous character.”
Meanwhile, Dundalk did progress to the lucrative third round thanks to their 1-0 win over Inter Club d'Escaldes in Andorra.
David McMillan's first half goal was enough for Dundalk and despite losing Andy Boyle to a second half red card, they emerged with a 1-0 win and now face Sheriff Tiraspol in the third round.