Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Europa League: Shamrock Rovers hit by stunning strikes

PAOK Salonika 2 Shamrock Rovers 1: PAOK Salonika powered past Shamrock Rovers thanks to two moments of magic in their Europa League Group A clash at the Toumbas Stadium.

Winning strike: PAOK’s Vieirinha celebrates their second goal

Costin Lazar's breathtaking 30-yard strike put PAOK in control in the 12th minute before Karl Sheppard headed the equaliser just after the break.

Vieirinha put the home side back in front with a spectacular 20-yard strike in the 63rd minute to condemn Rovers to their third straight defeat in the competition and earn PAOK their first win.

Lazar's stunning goal came after Rovers failed to clear their lines from a corner.

Dan Murray scuffed his clearance of Dorvalino Lino's outswinging corner and the ball fell at the feet of Lazar, who blasted the ball past Ryan Thompson from 30 yards as the goalkeeper remained rooted to the spot.

Billy Dennehy quickly established himself as Rovers’ biggest threat and he won and delivered the free-kick at the start of the second half which Sheppard headed into the back of Kostas Chalkias' net to level the score.

It was always going to be an uphill battle for the travelling Rovers in north Greece and they were forced to weather wave after wave of attacks.

PAOK squandered a good chance a minute later when they raced up the left wing, but Lazar's shot from the left of the area was blocked by Pat Sullivan just in front of goal.

Lazar then had a penalty shot turned down when he was fouled by Ken Oman on the edge of the area after a clumsy challenge but referee Tony Asumaa waved play on.

After the break, it was Rovers who immediately seized the initiative when Dennehy won a free-kick on the right side of the area and delivered a testing ball which found the unmarked Sheppard on the far post.

The midfielder was unchallenged and climbed the highest to head home the equaliser, to the delight of the die-hard travelling fans.

It took the home side another moment of brilliance to regain the lead, when Vladimir Ivic linked up with Vieirinha, who fired his right-footed shot into the top-left corner of goal just as Rovers looked to be gaining a foothold in the game.

The score gave PAOK more impetus and they then peppered Thompson with more shots on goal, but the Shamrock 'keeper was able to deny the Greek side their third.

Dennehy almost helped Shamrock earn a draw in the dying seconds but Chalkias punched his inswinging corner to safety to seal the home win.

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