Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley says his team "got done" by a poor refereeing decision after the Hoops bowed out of the Champions League qualifiers despite a 2-1 victory over Slovan Bratislava.
A 2-0 first-leg defeat meant the League of Ireland side were rank outsiders to upset the Slovaks at Tallaght Stadium, but the home team were in the ascendancy for large portions of the match and threatened to pull off a famous European result.
A Graham Burke penalty in the 16th minute saw Rovers take a 1-0 lead to the break and after the resumption it was one-way traffic before Richie Towell opened his account for the club with a stunning long-range strike to level the tie.
Against the run of play, Bratislava responded in the 73rd minute through Vladimir Weiss, but Bradley felt Roberto Lopes had been fouled by Rafael Ratao in an aerial challenge moments before the decisive strike.
"I thought the players were outstanding tonight," he told RTÉ Sport.
"They did everything we asked of them. To dominate a game like that, against really high level opposition shows the level of performance.
"We're just gutted that a poor decision has cost us.
"I have seen it back a few times in the dressing room and I don’t understand how he [referee Mario Zebec] hasn’t given a foul. It’s hard to take when you get done by a decision like that."
Reflecting on a strong display, Bradley felt the Premier Division champions were on their way to a major upset after Towell’s strike.
I felt at that point they were gone. You could sense it on the pitch
He added: "I felt at that point they were gone. You could sense it on the pitch, you could sense it from the bench they were done. They got off the hook tonight with a really poor decision."
With 1,500 spectators allowed into Tallaght Stadium for the encounter, Bradley said the "special" atmosphere inspired the players on the night.
Bratislava advance to the second round of Champions League qualifiers to take on Swiss club Young Boys while the Hoops will have to dust themselves down for the new UEFA Europa Conference League, where they have been given a bye to the third round qualifiers, something Bradley acknowledged post-match.
"It helps with the coefficient points as well, but right now it’s hard to even look at that because I feel we should be looking at Young Boys next week and unfortunately we are not."