Rovers pipped at post
One of Shamrock Rovers' most passionate performances in Europe was all to no avail as they eventually lost their InterToto Cup first-round tie to Turkish side Altay Spor after a thrilling second leg at Tolka Park yesterday.
In a match full of incident, including the extra-time sending off of home midfielder Marc Kenny, Rovers came to within three minutes of the lottery of a penalty shoot-out, after rescuing the tie from its 3-1 first-leg deficit in the most dramatic fashion.
Captain Paul Whelan levelled the match 4-4 on aggregate with a goal two minutes into time added at the end of normal time. He scooped the ball home after Derek Tracey had headed Kenny's corner back across goal.
Ten minutes earlier Tony Cousins had thrown them a lifeline with a stunning second goal for Rovers to make it 2-1; his one-two with Paul Stokes finished off with a glorious drive to the roof from 18 yards.
Rovers had begun well with Richie Purdy heading home a Kenny corner after just five minutes to give them the lead they desperately needed.
Altay equalised with 15 minutes to go: 1-1 on the day, 4-2 on aggregate. Murat Alacayir looped a header over goalkeeper Robbie Forde from Orhan Ustundag's deep cross. It seemed all over as a contest. Ultimately, the sending off of Kenny for retaliating after he had won a free-kick, seven minutes into extra-time, proved the turning point.
An exhausted Rovers allowed Yakup Sertkaya space to attack them down the middle with three minutes remaining.
He found Ustundag out on the left and his shot was deflected onto the crossbar by Forde with Senad Birkic heading home the rebound at the back post to see the relieved Turks through.
Shamrock Rovers: Forde; Britton, Whelan, Brazil, Dunne; Tracey, Colwell, Purdy, Kenny, Woods; Cousins. Subs: Francis for Purdy (13 mins), Morrisroe for Woods (73), Stokes for Dunne (80).
Altay Spor: Goymen; Ustundag, Karababa, Gusar; Alacayir, Dokme, Arayici, Akgul, Karapinar; Birkic, Ozturk. Subs: Sertkaya for Karababa (half-time), Ates for Ozturk (56), Ibizi for Birkic (119). Referee: B Benedik (Slovakia)