McCabe keeps European dream alive for Hoops

Shamrock Rovers 1 FK Partizan 1

Shamrock Rovers 1 FK Partizan 1

Gary McCabe was Shamrock Rovers’ local hero with the goal that keeps their European dream alive ahead of next week's daunting trip to Belgrade.

Trailing from early on to a physically imposing and technically superior Partizan, Rovers rallied in the final third and got their reward on 81 minutes.

Winger McCabe, from just down the road in Kilnamanagh, worked a delightful one-two with Gary Twigg to shoot low past Vladimir Stojkovic.

Twigg might then have won it on the night minutes later but flicked over the bar.

Partizan, with eight full international in their starting eleven, dominated early on with Rovers’ keeper Ryan Thompson forced into a tip over save from Nemanja Tomic’s 35-yard free just three minutes in.

Rovers' best laid plans of keeping it tight in the early stages were in then tatters as they conceded a soft, if well-taken, away goal on 14 minutes.

Aleksandar Rankovic put Vladimir Jovancic away down the right and his low cross was crisply swept home by Tomic.

Rovers struggled to cope with Partizan’s slick passing and Tomic and Eduardo both shot wide before Jovancic put a header straight at Thompson after mistake by Dan Murray.

Skipper Murray might have made amends with Rovers’ only real opening of the first half. But the central defender shot over the bar from Billy Dennehy’s 39th minute corner.

It should have been all over for Rovers on 56 minutes but for Thompson redeeming his shocking mistake from a clearance, saving with his feet from Jovancic.

Rovers survived to take the initiative for much of the remainder of the match. Substitute Chris Turner headed over after Craig Sives flicked on Pat Sullivan’s long throw. Sullivan then worked Stojkovic with a flick header from a McCabe free-kick.

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