Football | Hoops come from behind to beat Apollon Limassol

Shamrock Rovers have come from behind to beat Apollon Limassol 2-1 in Tallaght.

The Hoops fell behind in just the fourth minute in the first leg of their Europa League second round qualifier, but drew level through Lee Grace before Roberto Lopes netted a second half winner.

Limassol then had Esteban Sachetti sent off with seven minutes remaining as the Cypriots chased an equalizer.

Like their domestic rivals Dundalk last night, Rovers had a nightmare start, also falling behind inside the opening five minutes.

Fotis Papoulis fired a stunning half-volley past Alan Mannus from 20 yards; the Limassol captain silencing the majority of the 5,500 fans in attendance.

Rovers responded well, with Jack Byrne heavily influencing proceedings from the middle of the park.

His set pieces looked dangerous from the outset, and it took Stephen Bradley’s men just eight minutes to draw level after the concession of that early screamer.

Hoops defender Lee Grace headed Byrne’s corner into the net via the inside of the post in the 14th minute.

At the other end, Joao Pedro and Yannis Gianniotas forced Mannus into good saves with long-range efforts, and Emilio Zelay also had a goal ruled out for the away side.

Rovers took the lead in the 58th minute, with Byrne once again heavily involved.

He produced a gorgeous nutmeg in the buildup to a move which resulted in a foul on skipper Ronan Finn near the touchline.

Byrne whipped in an excellent free kick which was met with a glancing header by Lopes, with replays suggesting it found the net via a deflection off an Apollon Limassol defender.

Yet another Byrne free kick found Grace in the box in the 70th minute, but the defender’s header struck the crossbar and stayed out on this occasion.

Aaron Greene later had the chance to make it 3-1 after rounding the ‘keeper, but his effort flew over the bar.

Sachetti was then shown a straight red in the 83rd minute for a rash lunge on Byrne, and Rovers held on to carry a one-goal advantage to Cyprus next week.

Bradley’s men have left themselves in a strong position against a team that beat Lazio and Marseille in the group stages of last year’s Europa League.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Ethan Boyle; Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Joey O’Brien; Sean Kavanagh; Greg Bolger, Aaron McEneff (Dylan Watts, 84′), Jack Byrne; Ronan Finn (Gary O’Neill 77′), Dan Carr (Aaron Greene, 64′)

Apollon Limassol: Joel Mall; Joao Pedro, Hector Yuste, Attila Szalai, Vincent Bessat; Sasa Markovic, Esteban Sachetti; Yannis Gianniotas, Ioannis Pittas (Serge Selom Gakpe, 61′), Fotis Papoulis (Diego Aguirre, 71′) ; Emilio Zelaya (Facundo Pereyra, 81′)