Shamrock Rovers in driving seat after Icelandic stalemate

Hoops secure goalless draw in first leg of Champions League qualifier with Vikingur Reykjavik

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley in the dugout before the UEFA Europa Conference League Group F match at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Thursday October 27, 2022.
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley (Brian Lawless/PA)

SHAMROCK Rovers will head back to Tallaght Stadium for next week’s Uefa Champions League first qualifying round, second leg with a clean slate having eked out a goalless draw at Vikingsvollur in Reykjavik.

Rovers got off to a positive start and, after a couple of corners, captain Roberto Lopes headed over from Aaron Greene’s right wing cross on just three minutes.

They could not capitalise on this, though, and had Leon Pohls and the upright to thank for keeping the game goalless on 10 minutes.

After a bit of a scramble, Jon Fjoluson headed towards goal and the German stopper had to react quickly to touch on to the post. That same post was rattled from the rebound when Erlingur Agnarsson somehow couldn’t steer home from six yards with a gaping goal in front of him.

Stephen Bradley’s men survived that scare and were breathing a sigh of relief just after the half-hour mark when the two captains collided in the box. Nikolaj Hansen made a move across the front of Lopes and looked to have been tripped but referee Sigurd Kringstad waved away his appeals.

The second period began with the visitors on the back foot and they had a bit of luck five minutes in when Agnarsson’s effort from the right corner of the box was deflected onto the roof of the net by Sean Hoare before Faroe Islands’ international Gunnar Vatnhamar flicked a header over the top.

The Dubliners were struggling to get any sort of foothold in the game and Pablo Punyed flashed a drive over the bar on 65 minutes for the hosts.

Stephen Bradley introduced Johnny Kenny from the bench just after this and, on 72 minutes, he came closest to opening the scoring for his side.

The Celtic loanee made a strong run from halfway, holding off Vikingur defenders before letting loose with a shot from the edge of the box, which just fizzed past the static Ingvar Jonsson’s post.

Despite this injection of positivity, the Hoops were under pressure for the last 10 minutes when Darragh Nugent received a second yellow card for what appeared to be a slightly innocuous coming-together with Karl Gunnarsson and Vikingur attempted to use their height advantage by launching an aerial bombardment.

On 86 minutes, though, it was Kenny again who latched on to Greene’s hopeful long punt and sprinted towards goal. However, he was forced wide by Oliver Ekroth and fired over, while Danijel Djuric rippled the wrong side of the net with a free-kick, meaning both sides would have to settle for a stalemate which surely suits the League of Ireland champions more.