Slovan Bratislava 1-0 UCD
It was cruel, late heartbreak for UCD in Slovakia as Slovan Bratislava inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Collie O’Neill’s valiant Students in their Europa League second qualifying round first leg encounter.
Slovan, who had to play with ten men for over an hour, only broke the deadlock in the 84th minute after an unkind deflected goal from Adam Zrelak.
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 international caps, including a front two of Tamas Priskin and Robert Vittek with 39 internationals goals between them.
UCD started as they finished at Dudelange last week with both Michael Leahy and Tomas Boyle passed fit as expected.
Showing no nerves at all, College 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 Hungary international.
Gary O’Neill soon did likewise when winning the ball off Milinkovic to throw down a marker in the midfield battle as UCD maintained their positive start.
If that frustrated Slovan, there was worse to come when their numbers were reduced in the 28th minute.
A high, lunging challenge by central defender Gorosito on UCD skipper Robbie Benson was rightly punished with a straight red card by Georgian referee Lasha Silagava.
Four minutes later, Slovan should really have been ahead.
A deep ball in from the right by Milinkovic was met at the far post by Adam Zrelak, who completely missed the target with a volley.
Zrelak brought the stop of the half from Niall Corbet with a low drive following an incisive counter-attack in the 36th minute.
UCD then shaped their first 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 stretch was off target as he took a knock from the Slovakia international keeper.
Slovan boss Dusan Tittel hooked Vittek at the break having surely given his side an ear-bashing.
The 10-men certainly came out with far more purpose as Jakub Podany had a header deflected over the top from a corner two minutes in.
Podany then got in behind on the left to drive a shot into the side-netting.
Well-organised and keeping their shape, UCD weathered that early second half pressure from Slovan before their best chance of the game arrived in the 64th minute. The hugely impressive Benson crossed from the right but Ryan Swan just didn’t get enough purchase on his snap shot from close range as Jan Mucha saved on his line.
Slovan pressed in the latter stages with Corbet, as he did in Dudelange last week, really coming into his own.
First the big College keeper made a diving save from Milinkovic.
An even better save arrived in the 74th minute when Corbet was off his line promptly to push a shot from substitute Frantisek Kubik away for a corner.
And when Corbet wasn’t there, Swan headed off the line from Milinkovic’s in-swinging 79th minute corner, with Kubik blazing the rebound over the bar.
Corbet then made the stop of the night in the 81st minute when diving full stretch to palm away a thumping header from Kornel Salata from another corner.
But it came undone for College in the 84th minute when left winger Zrelak’s left-foot drive deflected to the net past Corbet.
Slovan Bratislava: Jan Mucha; Boris Sekulic, Kornel Salata 7, Nicolas Gorosito, Jakub Podany; Marko Milinkovic, Slobodan Simovic (David Hudak 44), Samuel Stefanik, Adam Zrelak; Tamas Priskin (Timotej (Zahumensky, 90+2), Robert Vittek (Frantisek Kubik h/t)
UCD: Niall Corbet; Michael Leahy, Tomas Boyle, Max Kouogun, Mark Langtry; Gary O’Neill; Chris Mulhall, Dylan Watts (Conor Cannon 85), Robbie Benson, Jamie Doyle; Ryan Swan
Referee: Lasha Silagava (Georgia)