Max Mata’s late penalty saves Sligo Rovers a point against Cork City

Max Mata’s late penalty salvaged a point for Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds as Bit O’Red struggled back to Cork City from two goals down.

Goals from Jonas Häkkinen and Ruairi Keating looked like the Rebels would leave Sligo with the points. But Eanna Clancy’s first goal for Rovers was followed by Mata’s dramatic equalizer after Kailin Barlow was turned around by Kevin Custovic.

Sligo Rovers' Max Mata bagged a late penalty to equalize a tie


Sligo Rovers’ Max Mata bagged a late penalty to equalize a tie
Max Mata in action for Sligo Rovers


Max Mata in action for Sligo Rovers

The hosts faced each other for the first time since City Rovers knocked out of the FAI Cup in summer 2021 and made two changes from last Monday’s win over St Pat’s. Clancy made his sixth start for Sligo while Lukas Browning replaced Niall Morahan at centre.

The Munster men, fresh off that eight-goal thriller at Tallaght, made three substitutions, with Custovic, Ethon Varian and Jonas Häkkinen each arriving.

Colin Healy’s side, looking to catch up with their hosts in the Premier Division table by seven points, looked more determined in the first half.

Matthew Healy had a try that was saved early by Sligo stopper Luke McNicholas, while Fabrice Hartmann, who struck Monday’s Rovers winner against Pat’s, shot over from the edge of the Cork area shortly after.

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City took the lead after 18 minutes.

Sligo protested referee Arnold Hunter’s decision to grant Cork a corner which Rovers were unable to immediately clear their lines from.

Ruairi Keating, once from Sligo, saw his own skipper Cian Coleman clear his laced volley off the line. The ball bounced for Häkkinen, who reacted first and nodded over the line.

John Russell’s charges continued to struggle to break the Cork Line.

Six minutes before the break, they came closest to restoring the equalizer. Greg Bolger met Hartmann playing Johan Brannefalk but Sligo’s Sweden full-back could only deflect the ball from the angle into the side netting.

Rovers started the second period with a step but still found it difficult to break through a compact Cork rearguard and were thrown further down to 63.

Keating’s shot from the turn took a touch off McNicholas’ post after blasting his way past the Mayo native.

The Connacht side halved the deficit eleven minutes from time when Clancy scored his first goal in red from a Brannefalk corner.

Rovers substitute Bogdan Vastsuk almost equalized in the 81st minute, but his header went just wide of Jimmy Corcoran’s goal. While the Ireland underage international had to repel another header attempt, this time from Sligo’s New Zealander Nando Pijnaker with three minutes remaining.

The pressure finally showed in the third of the extra five minutes when Mata sent Corcoran the wrong way from the spot.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas 7; Johan Brannefalk (7), Eanna Clancy (7), Nando Pijnaker (6), Reece Hutchinson (6); Greg Bolger 6 (Kailin Barlow HT) 6, Luke Browning 6; Fabrice Hartmann 7, Will Fitzgerald 6 (Frank Liivak 69) 6; Stefan Radosavljevic 7 (Bogdan Vastsuk 69 7); Max Mata 7.

City of Cork: Jimmy Corcoran 6; Kevin Custovic (7), Jonas Hakkinen (7), Ali Gilchrist (8), Joshua Honohan (7); Darragh Crowley 6 (Albin Winbo 56) 6, Matthew Healy 7 (Joe Whitmarsh 81) 6, Cian Coleman 7, Ethon Varian 6; Daniel Krezic 6 (Cian Bargary HT) 6; Ruairi Keating 7 (Babatune Owolabi 69) 7.

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Referee: Arnold Jaeger 6.

Starman: Ali Gilchrist (Cork) Max Mata’s late penalty saves Sligo Rovers a point against Cork City

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