Spartak Trnava 3 - 1 Sligo Rovers
SEVEN IS Heaven but Eight must be the circle where they heat up the hobs of Hell.
Eight minutes is all it took to dent Sligo Rovers dreams of hitting a six figure cheque in Europe's next qualifying round last night when they went down 3-1 to Spartak Trnava in north east Slovakia last night (Thursday).
The thunderstorm and lightning which hit around the Antona Malatinskeho stadium last night just after kick off was mirrored inside it too.
Metaphorically, lightning did strike twice on the pitch too as Spartak hit two goals inside a minute to shock Sligo as the clock moved towards half time.
The damage was done in eight disastrous minutes just before the break - between the 38th and 46th minute, when Spartak Trnava scored three times.Tie Alive
That all said, Sligo manager Ian Barraclough still believes this tie is alive and Rovers can win. He told The Irish Times
this morning (Friday): “We have self belief that we can win any game. We have only lost one game in the league this season, we feel as though we have a good squad and that the tie is very much alive.
“We think we can claw a two-goal lead back. I think that away goal was very, very important. I felt we were the better team for long periods, apart from a mad five minutes.
“We managed to galvanise ourselves at half-time and went and took the game to Trnava. I felt we got our reward with an away goal and maybe could have had more. But the tie is still very much alive.”Real Gift
Most of the damage was done inside the space of 45th and 46th minute by Martin Mikovic, the Slovakian Under 21 international, who grabbed an early brace for his birthday.
He will not celebrate his 22nd birthday next month but he put his paws on a real gift of a goal right on half time last night.
Mikovic intercepted an attempted pass back by Ross Gaynor as Rovers reeled from another Mikovic goal less than minute earlier. He was substituted in the 70th minute but he had already done enough for Spartak.
Spartak had opened the scoring as the clock ticked towards 38 minutes. Club captain and midfield veteran Miroslav Karhan, the most capped Slovak footballer of all time, headed in at close range following a corner from Stozicky.
But Rovers showed super fighting spirit to win the second half 1-0 and also keep the second leg in the Showgrounds alive. They had played well up to the disastrous sequence of goals, had won the game's first corner in ten minutes.
Rovers goal? Who else but Joseph N'Do was involved in the move as he quickly released Danny North on the edge of the box. He crossed for power house Gavin Peers to get there ahead of the keeper and give Sligo a fine important lifeline goal in the 69th minute.
Now there's an omen - the 69th; one of the most famous regiments in all American history was ''The Fighting 69th,'' led by a Sligo man. General Michael Corcoran from Ballymote.
That said, the second leg in the Showgrounds next Thursday (7pm) is still there for Spartak to lose but.....but any goal scored by Rovers without reply in the opening 45 minutes would set the scene ablazeand maybe a slice of history for the current Airtricity League leaders.
The prospect of Sligo seeking to 'do a Liverpool' -- recalling the Merseysiders famed 2005 European fight back from 3-0 down at the halfway stage -- will be uppermost in many football minds this coming week.Away Goal
Manager Ian Barraclough said, "It’s important we keep the tie alive going back to The Showgrounds next week. Getting an away goal would be an added bonus."
"If we’re within touching distance when the tie goes back to The Showgrounds, then we can get our fans bouncing and behind us. And that would be magnificent for the town and for us. All of the factors come into account — we’re flying high at the top of the table, we’re doing well off the pitch, with a new stand opening and we’ve done great with the people we’ve re-signed.
Baraclough concluded, "There is a great positivity around the club and if we can take that into a big European night, what a lift that would give to the players and go and get us into the next round."
The Bit O'Red boss WILL be encouraged that Rovers created chances before and after disaster struck in last night's first period. Rafael Cretaro hit the crossbar in the second half and as early as the 28th minute, David Cawley released the Tubber man. Earlier, his deflected cross evaded the Spartak defence.
Showgrounds crowd favourite, Paschal Millien, was introduced in place of Cretaro for the final 13 minutes and it almost paid off. He crossed superbly for leading scorer Danny North late on and his header sailed over when it seemed easier to score what would have been a dramatic finale.
Joseph N'Do -- back to his best form throughout the game -- had a pot at goal from a free kick saved by Filipko.Sligo Rovers:
Gary Rogers, Gavin Peers, Seamus Conneely, Jason McGuinness, Romuald Boco, Joseph N'Do, Danny Ventre, David Cawley, Ross Gaynor, Rafael Cretaro, Danny North. Subs: Paschal Millien for Cretaro 77th minute and Jeff Henderson for Gaynor, 90th minute.
Spartak Trnava: M Filipko; M Habanek, M Janecka, P Cvirik, Vlastimil Stozicky; P Gross, Miroslav Karhan; M Gasparik, Martin Mikovic (I Schranz 70), M Bicak (J Koubsky 84); L Tomacek (K Pavelka 60). Subs: K Pavelka for Tomacek in 60th minute, I Schrantz for ikovic 70th minute and J Koubsky for Bicak 84th minute.
Referee: Tommy Skjerven (Norway).