Stephen Bradley: 'We're going there to win the match'

Stephen Bradley has challenged his Shamrock Rovers side to leap the initial Champions League hurdle with aplomb when they travel to Malta next Tuesday
Stephen Bradley: 'We're going there to win the match'

VICTORIOUS: Shamrock Rovers' manager Stephen Bradley celebrates after the game. ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

Stephen Bradley has challenged his Shamrock Rovers side to leap the initial Champions League hurdle with aplomb when they travel to Malta next Tuesday.

Tuesday’s 3-0 first-leg throttling of Hibernians has Ireland’s back-to-back champions on the verge of a lucrative second round meeting, likely against Ludogorets.

Rovers started and ended the 90 minutes with the air of favourites they enjoyed from being the seeded side but they endured a few nervy moments shortly after taking a 2-0 lead into the interval.

The fitness benefit from a summer campaign was a contributor in that pattern against a side in pre-season and fielding five debutants.

It won’t be such an advantage next week on the artificial surface of the Centenary Stadium in Ta' Qali, Malta but scoring more goals, rather than conceding, is the outlook being adopted when Rovers fly by charter on Sunday via Shannon due to congestion for slots at Dublin Airport.

“We’re going there to win the match,” asserted Bradley.

“Hibs showed in the second half that they’re a dangerous side.

“We expected their new striker (Terrence Groothusen) to start but they only brought him on at half-time.

“People could see a monster and can run. He’s a handful.

“If you sit back against this time, you’re asking for trouble. They’re a big side and we know the conditions that are ahead, with the heat and pitch.” 

Bradley could have Graham Burke back from injury but talisman Jack Byrne won’t make it due to a calf problem. Another attacker, Danny Mandroiu, is off to Lincoln City this week but veterans Aaron Greene and Rory Gaffney – lucky not to be suspended for a loose kick that only yielded a booking – displayed their nous up front.

Dylan Watts, too, produced a masterclass from midfield, popping up from deep to score the second approaching the break.

Bradley added: “We were missing a lot of players today but the ones that have stepped up the last while were brilliant.

“I thought Dylan - I know Rory got man of the match and deservedly so - but I thought Dylan was on a different level. I thought some of the stuff, some of his touches, some of his positional play was really high level, really good.

“That performance from Dylan is right up there with one of the best you’ll see in terms of how clever he was, how quick he was, his end product and his all-round game.

“He’s been like that for quite some time - he’s matured.

“In Europe over the last few years, we’ve had good and bad and you learn from them.

“We started really well – aggressive in and out of possession - and imposed ourselves on the game early which always helps.

“The first 15 of the second half we were sloppy, and let them into it, and then we took over the game again. The players were brilliant.”

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