O'Neill encouraged despite defeat

Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill remains convinced his side will collect Europa League points after they were taught a harsh lesson by Rubin Kazan.

Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill remains convinced his side will collect Europa League points after they were taught a harsh lesson by Rubin Kazan.

The Airtricity League champions were beaten 3-0 in the opening Group A tie at Tallaght Stadium as the Russians ran out comfortable winners after taking an early lead.

However, O’Neill is confident Rovers, the first Irish club to qualify for the group stage of a UEFA competition, will learn from their experiences at the hands of an expensively-assembled Rubin side as they prepare for their daunting visit to Tottenham in a fortnight’s time.

He said: “I think we are capable. If we are just here fulfilling the fixtures, then there’s no point in us being here, to be honest.

“Tonight, maybe if we hadn’t conceded a goal so early, the pattern of the game could have been slightly different.

“But I believe we are capable of still taking points, certainly. In many ways, if you look at our results in Europe, our better results have been away from home.

“It probably suits us better to set up from a really defensive point of view and play from that kind of platform.

“We have won in Israel and we were narrowly beaten in Italy; we have won in Belgrade and we were narrowly beaten in Copenhagen – it’s only when I read those out to you that I realise how well we have done away from home.

“I still feel there are opportunities potentially for us to take points both home and away, but maybe tonight was a good thing for the players because they have seen what level is required to compete at this level of competition.”

Rovers were up against it from the third minute when Obafemi Martins, whose Carling Cup final goal for Birmingham at Wembley booked their place in the same competition, fired home from Gokdeniz Karadeniz’s cross.

The Hoops gradually worked their way into the game and went close to an equaliser from Stephen O’Donnell’s 16th-minute header, but they would have fallen further behind nine minutes before the break had it not been for Ryan Thompson’s penalty save from Nelson Valdez.

However, sweet strikes from Christian Noboa and the impressive Gokdeniz Karadeniz – the Turk only arrived in Ireland this morning because of visa problems – inside the first 15 minutes of the second half made the points safe, although keeper Sergei Ryzhikov had to keep out Ronan Finn’s close-range header and O’Donnell’s 64th-minute penalty to preserve his clean sheet.

Asked what lessons his side would take from tonight’s game, O’Neill said with a smile: “Don’t concede in the first two minutes, I would say. That would be certainly high on the agenda.

“Listen, there are so many things that we can take from that, all good.

“People will reflect on the result and maybe they will be a bit more realistic about the challenge that the club faces in even being on this stage.

“I am disappointed with the result and I am sure everyone associated with the game here in Ireland has a hint of disappointment with that as well.

“But in the cold light of the day when we analyse things, we will see that there were a lot of positive things to take from that tonight, and it’s those things hopefully that we can build on and prepare ourselves not only for what lies ahead in this Europa League campaign, but the experience will stand us in good stead for European adventures in the future.”

Rubin boss Kurban Berdyev was satisfied with his side’s performance on a night when they stepped into the unknown.

He said: “In short, it was a good performance and a good start to the tournament that will give us confidence as we go into the next games.”

Asked about Karadeniz’s contribution after his belated arrival, he added: “He’s a great fighter, so I had no doubts about him.”

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