DAVID SMITH - Friday, July 22, 2016
A disastrous evening in Europa League action saw all Americans competing in the second round of qualification crash out of the competition.
NK Lokomotiva 3 - 0 RoPS (agg. 4-1)
Will John was in his traditional spot atop the RoPS attack on Thursday night in Zagreb, however the team was overpowered by their hosts Lokomotiva to exit the competition by a three-goal margin.
RoPS backup keeper Tyler Back was not in uniform for the hosts.
With the first leg in Finland ending with a 1-1 scoreline, the pressure was on RoPS to score at least one away goal, however it was clear that at aggressive approach would be punished by their hosts.
The Croatians had their first clear chance to jump into the lead after 22 minutes when JuhaPirinen was judged to have bowled over Lokomotiva attacker Eros Grezda in the area on a breakaway, however the Finns were granted a temporary reprieve as their keeper Antonio Reguero saved Prenga's spot kick.
The hosts were, however, successful in establishing their lead moments before the halftime whistle, as the defense was unable to deal with a long cross from the flank by Karlo Bartolec, which Ivan Fiolic put away from close range.
They then doubled their lead four minutes into the second half, as Reguero was only able to block away a shot from distance, and Mirko Maric was in position to neatly tap in the rebound.
The Croatians then removed any doubt of a late-comeback by their visitors with seven minutes remaining, as Maric snuck in behind the defense, receiving a long ball just inside of RoPS territory, and then beating everybody on his way for the 3-0.
The defeat knocks RoPS out of European competition for this year, however allows them to turn their focus to their ongoing domestic campaign, where they currently sit sixth place - three points out of the European places - at the halfway mark of the season.
Perry Kitchen was kept out of Hearts' second-leg game against Birkirkara FC on Thursday due to a minor hamstring pull. The Maltese team pulled off a stunning 2-1 away victory in Tynecastle Stadium, giving them the overall victory in the two-legged tie by the same score, and ending the Scottish team's campaign on an embarrassing note.