Shamrock Rovers throw the doors open in Tallinn and Flora file through

Stephen Bradley’s side let in four goals as Europa Conference League hopes take big hit

Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper watches on as  Flora Tallinn’s Rauno Sappinen celebrates scoring their third goal with team-mates at the Lillekula stadium. Photograph: Sander Ilvest/Inpho

Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper watches on as Flora Tallinn’s Rauno Sappinen celebrates scoring their third goal with team-mates at the Lillekula stadium. Photograph: Sander Ilvest/Inpho

 

Flora Tallinn 4 Shamrock Rovers 2

The result that Shamrock Rovers defending fully deserved. Stephen Bradley’s side retain the slightest chance of reaching the Europa Conference League come next Thursday’s second leg at Tallaght stadium.

Also known as the €3 million game.

Flora’s all-Estonian personnel must silence an expanded 3,500 crowd that will expect the last Irish club in Europe to give a better account of themselves than this sloppy, albeit brave showing at the Lillekula stadium.

What will haunt Rovers, more than the result, is how Flora harried them into error. All four goals were avoidable but when squeezed down narrow channels, the basics deserted them.

“When you do that you don’t deserve to win,” said Bradley.

Nobody was safe from the press. Even veteran defender Joey O’Brien was exposed on the right side of three centre halves.

Flora’s opening goal was a piece of art in four brush strokes. Rovers attempted to play short from goalkeeper Alan Mannus, as is their philosophy, but O’Brien was only offered a speculative pass up the right sideline to Ronan Finn.

Shamrock Rovers’ Rory Gaffney is surrounded by Flora goalkeeper Matvei Igonen, Martin Miller and Michael Lilander. Photograph: Sander Ilvest/Inpho
Shamrock Rovers’ Rory Gaffney is surrounded by Flora goalkeeper Matvei Igonen, Martin Miller and Michael Lilander. Photograph: Sander Ilvest/Inpho

It never made it that far. Instead, Martin Miller’s swinging leg found Henrik Ojamaa whose quick touch had Konstanin Vassiljev turning and drawing five defenders before calmly rolling the ball towards the penalty spot where Sergei Zenjov passed into the net.

Four touches, 1-0 and not so much as a glove laid upon the hosts.

The second was worse. On a quick break, following Graham Burke’s speculative shot, Rauno Sappinen put O’Brien on his back before cutting back for Miller to beat Finn to the punch.

Again, it was stark how easily Flora tore Rovers apart.

Burke did keep the European campaign afloat with a venomous left-foot finish to make it 2-1 just before half-time after a corner pinballed to the edge of the box.

Mannus proved equally heroic with an important save from Sappinen on 53 minutes but the Estonian striker was running on to a heap of silver service as Rovers kept coughing up possession in midfield. Ricardo Lopes bravely hung on to his coattails.

Sappinen appeared to settle the tie when Mannus could only parry Zenjov’s shot but a looping header from Celtic-bound Liam Scales made it 3-2 with five minutes remaining.

Miller had the last word, though, belting home a fourth after Sappinen made it to the endline and cut back once again.

An early goal in Tallaght will be essential. On this evidence progress looks beyond them.

FLORA TALLINN: Igonen; Lilander, Purg (Tougjas, 90), Seppik, Kallaste; Zenjov, Vassijev, Soomets, Miller, Ojamaa; Sappinen (Alliku, 89).

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; Finn, O’Brien, Lopes, Hoare, Scales; Towell (Mandroiu, 67), Watts, O’Neill, Burke; Gaffney (Greene, 53).

Referee: Yevhenii Aranovskiy (Ukraine).

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