Sunday 23 October 2016

students' euro dream alive

UCD undone by late goal but hopeful for return leg

There was late heartbreak for UCD in Slovakia as they came within minutes of holding Slovan Bratislava to a remarkable scoreless draw in their Europa League second qualifying round first leg clash in Slovakia.

Collie O'Neill's valiant Students continued to defy the odds with another tenacious display in central Europe.

And though slick Slovan had to play with ten men for over an hour, UCD only fell to an 86th minute, cruelly deflected goal from Adam Zrelák.

In an uncanny reversal of last week's passage at Dudelange in Luxembourg, it was UCD who played with an extra man for much of the game when Slovan's Argentinian defender Nicolas Gorosito was sent off.

Record Slovak league and cup holders Slovan, fielded a side with over 200 senior caps including a front two of Tamas Priskin and Robert Vittek with 39 internationals goals between them.

Showing no nerves at all, UCD settled well, before enduring their first real scare on 10 minutes. Vittek threaded Priskin through with Boyle getting across to make a terrific block tackle on the Hungarian international. If that frustrated Slovan, there was worse to come when their numbers were reduced on 28 minutes.

A dreadful challenge by central defender Gorosito on UCD skipper Robbie Benson was rightly punished with a straight red card from Georgian referee, Lasha Silagava.

Four minutes later, though, Slovan should really have been ahead. A deep ball in from the right by Milinkovic was met at the far post by Zrelák who completely missed the target with a volley.

UCD then shaped their first real opening of the half four minutes before the break with an incisive passing move.

It finished with Benson putting Mark Langtry in on the overlap on the left.

Slovan keeper Jan Mucha did enough to put off the UCD left-back whose toed effort at a stretch was off target as he took a knock from the Slovak international keeper.

Well-organised and keeping their shape, UCD weathered that early second half pressure from Slovan before their best chance of the game arrived on 64 minutes.

The hugely impressive Benson crossed from the right. Ryan Swan just didn't get enough purchase on his snap shot from close range as Mucha saved on his line.

But the visitors came undone on 84 minutes when left winger Zrelák's left-foot drive from the edge of the area deflected to the net past Corbet.

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