Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O'Neill praised his players attitude after losing 2-0 in their Europa League third qualifying round first leg tie against Italian giants Juventus.
O’Neill was delighted with the way his team — among them ex-Northern Ireland under-21 internationals Chris Turner and Thomas Stewart, as well as full cap Alan Mannus — applied themselves despite the defeat in Tallaght last night.
Brazilian striker Amauri rocked the Dubliners after less than three minutes and he struck his second of the night 15 minutes from time.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though against the twice European champions. After a nervy start Rovers defender Dan Murray missed two very good chances to level matters.
O'Neill admitted his side had struggled early on, conceding the opener in the third minute, but was pleased with their overall display.
“Early on in the game we tried to go from back to front far too quickly,” said former Northern Ireland midfielder O’Neill.
“We said beforehand that we needed to have belief and get settled in the game, but we never had that after going behind so early. It took us 25 minutes to get settled.
“In the second-half we moved the ball around well, but I felt we could have put the ball in the box more. We knew we were a threat from set pieces, but you are always aware of the quality they have.
“I always felt we could go out and play the way we did and have patches where we could hassle them, but we knew it would be difficult to do that for 90 minutes against a side of their quality.
“In the end I couldn't have asked any more of the players.”
Rovers are now faced with the daunting task of travelling to Italy for the second leg next week, although that game will be played in Modena as the Stadio Olimpico is being used by fellow Dubliners U2 for a concert on their ongoing world tour and O'Neill hopes his side can repeat last night's display.
“We have to go out in the second leg and a give a good account of ourselves in Italy,” he said.
The 6,000 fans created a great atmosphere, but the home support was silenced after just three minutes as Amauri played an excellent one-two with Diego, going on to slot the ball beyond Mannus.
Rovers captain Murray had a chance to level matters just two minutes later, but he took too long to get his shot away as he struggled to bring the ball down.
Diego then came very close to doubling the lead in the 19th minute as a poor backpass from Murray put Mannus under pressure, but the Brazil midfielder dragged his effort wide.
Rovers put some pressure on their illustrious visitors in the 25th minute when a long ball picked out Stewart, whose goal against Bnei Yehuda had handed Rovers this tie and his jinking run saw him threaten the Juve box, but Giorgio Chiellini cleared.
Rovers came out with a more positive attitude after the break, with Murray heading a great chance wide after good work down the left flank by Stewart.
Turner then saw a long-range effort fly over the bar and Juve briefly looked rattled.
The clinching goal finally came as a powerful header saw the forward beat Mannus for a second time.