With a comfortable advantage and a pleasant footballing climate for Ireland, our thirty-three-time champions and twenty-four-time Hungarian Cup winners took to the pitch at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin after beating Shamrock Rovers 4-0 in the UEFA Europa League play-off opener at the Groupama Arena a week ago.
The return leg attracted around 7,000 fans, with more than 200 Fradi supporters in the stands, who often matched the overwhelming crowd in their cheering. Our head coach Stanislav Cherchesov was without several players for the second game, including Dénes Dibusz, who was replaced in goal by Ádám Bogdán Bogdán and as captain by Norwegian Tokmac Nguen. The starting line-up of Fradi - only our nickname could be seen on the stadium's small screen - was Bogdán - Wingo, Knoester, Kovacevic, Civic - Esiti, Laidouni - Auzqui, Tokmac, Traoré - R. Mmaee.
We took up on to the pitch in our gold jerseys, while Shamrock Rovers, who resembled our club in the year of their foundation and in their colours, wore green and white cross stripes. In the 2nd minute we got inside the opponent's penalty area at the end of a well-formed attack, but were finally able to tackle Traore, who received a good ball from Laidouni, 7 yards from goal. The Irish threatened in the 8th minute with a cross from the right, but Kovacevic cleared the ball. In the first quarter of an hour, it was mainly our right wing that was active, with Argentina's Carlos Auzqui making several excellent tackles. Between the 15th and 18th minutes, we had a couple of tough crosses in midfield and French referee Letexier called on our captain Tokmac Nguyen to ask our players to play more careful football. In the 20th minute, Towell, the home side's number 17, thought big and fired a nasty shot over from 25 yards. In the 21st minute, Carlos Auzqui was fouled after sliding in on Lee Grace. In the 25th minute we were back inside the opposition penalty area, Mmaee and Traoré dribbling, eventually stealing the ball off the former's foot. In the 27th minute, Justin Ferizaj curled the ball into our goal from 23 yards, the ball just missing the top left corner. In the 34th minute, Kovacevic was kicked by Emakhu and the Irish striker also received a yellow card. Shortly afterwards, Ryan Mmaee's left-wing cross slipped a little and Mannus had to save a slow ball towards the top right corner. In the 41st minute, the home side missed their best chance of the game, a right-footed cross was perfectly played to Towell, who failed to get on the ball and Emakhu was left off his mark after a clearance. In the 44th minute Towell was shown a yellow card for kicking Tokmac. The free kick was taken from 24 metres out on the left by Civic, the onrushing Mmaee's header was saved bravely by Mannus. Shamrock tried to reduce the four-goal deficit in the first half, but failed to do so, and although they attacked less - but sometimes more dangerously - they defended well.
The Irish continued to attack in the second half, which was now reflective, but Auzqui had a chance to score from a counterattack, but he was caught by a long ball. In the 54th minute, Esiti was shown a yellow card for what the referee said was a foul on one of the home players in front of our penalty area. Kavanagh fired dangerously from 17 meters from the free kick, but Bogdán made a great save to his right, and a minute later he didn't have to intervene with Towell's sizzling shot from goal. From a counter-attack, Ryan Mmaee's chance was saved by Mannus. In the 57th minute, manager Cherchesov brought off his two yellow carded men, Auzquit Marquinhos, Esiti was replaced by Vécsei. Immediately afterwards Civic's corner was headed just wide by Kovacevic. Mmaee, Traoré, Marquinhos were on the ball's path, but our Brazilian striker was saved from the shot at the moment of the shot from 7 meters from goal. In the 61st minute Vécsei launched from deep but the ball slipped off Marquinhos' boot, it could have been a great chance. In the 66th minute, after two Irish substitutions, a left-wing cross was headed clear by Civic in front of goal. A host of substitutions with Boli and Mercier coming on for Mmaee and Tokmac. In the 71st minute, Civic's left-wing corner was slid wide by Vécsei. A great situation was missed after that: a Civic cross was headed onto a defender by Boli and the rebound was flicked just wide by Traoré. In the 78th minute, Krisztián Lisztes Jr. made his international cup debut, coming on for Traoré. Bogdán then made a great save.
The Irish champions went ahead in the second half for the goal, which was scored just before extra time: Andrews Lyons headed into the net from close range in the 90th minute, making the final score 1-0. Despite the defeat, we finished with a 4-1 aggregate score and will be playing in the UEL group stage. The draw for the group stage is made on Friday.
Despite the defeat, we finished with a 4-1 aggregate score and will be a safe bet for the UEL group stage when the draw for the group stage is made on Friday.
UEFA Europa League play-off, match 2
Shamrock Rovers - Ferencváros 1-0 (0-0)
Dublin, Tallaght Stadium, v.: Francois Letexier
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus - Gannon, Hoare, Grace - Finn (Lyons, 64), Kavanagh (Watts, 72), O'Neill, Towell (Byrne, 72), Farrugia - Ferizaj (Tetteh, 72), Emakhu (Greene, 64). Head coach: Stephen Bradley
FTC: Bogdán - Wingo, Knoester, Kovacevic, Civic - Esiti (Vécsei, 57), Laidouni - Auzqui (Marquinhos, 57), Tokmac (Mercier, 71), Traoré (Lisztes, 79) - R. Mmaee (Boli, 71). Head coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Yellow cards: Emakhu (34th), Towell (44th) and Auzqui (21st)
Goals: Lyons (89.)
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After two rounds, our men's football team is unbeaten in Group H of the UEL.
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