Max Mata winner gives Sligo Rovers an edge over Wales rivals in the Europa Conference League

Sligo Rovers have a slim lead going into next week’s second leg after beating Bala Town in the first leg of the Europa Conference League first leg at Park Hall.

Assana Mendes had given the Welsh an early lead but Sligo managed to turn the game around with goals from Aidan Keena and Max Mata.

Rovers ended the game with ten men after Nando Pijnaker was sent off in the 79th minute.

Any attempts by the visitors to control the tempo of the game from the start ended early as the Wales side took the lead after just six minutes.

Rovers’ New Zealand international Pijnaker failed to touch the ball as he attempted to clear a Paul Rutherford cross. The ball instead landed at the feet of Mendes, who flicked the ball past Ed McGinty from the edge of the area.

John Russell’s side then leveled the contest in the 28th minute.

Keena showed excellent control to intercept Karl O’Sullivan’s cross before casually tossing the ball over Ramsay’s head to score his 12th goal of the season.

The Lakesiders had Ramsay to thank again just three minutes into the second half when he denied Mata in a one-on-one situation.

But Ramsay could do little against Mata’s goal in the 49th minute as the former Real Monarchs forward made the best of hesitation in the Bala defense to squeeze the ball between Ramsay and his post.

Bala was inches away from equalizing in the 77th minute. But Venables’ header ricocheted off McGinty’s post after the ball sailed over the Glaswegian’s head.

Sligo was reduced to ten men with 11 minutes to go when Pijnaker was sent into the stands after dragging James Davies to the ground. Referee Jason Barcelo ruled that Pijnaker was the last man.

Colm Horgan twice cleared the ball off his own line in the 83rd minute to maintain Sligo’s narrow lead, while Bala saved what appeared to be a legitimate penalty shortly afterwards.

Rover change Frank Liivak got into a clash with Mendes in the penalty area but referee Barcelo remained unfazed despite the Town attacker looking like a stumbling block.

City of Bala: Alex Ramsay; Ross White, Nathan Peate, Antony Kay, Calum Woods (Oliver Southern 66); David Edwards, Oliver Shannon (Brad Bauress 82); Kieran Smith, Paul Rutherford (James Davies 74); Chris Venables, Lassana Mendes.

Sligo Rover: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, Shane Blaney, Nando Pijnaker, Paddy Kirk; Adam McDonnell (David Cawley 92), Niall Morahan; Karl O’Sullivan (Frank Liivak 69), Will Fitzgerald; Aidan Keena, Max Mata (Lewis Banks 82).

Referee: Jason Barcelona (Gibraltar). Max Mata winner gives Sligo Rovers an edge over Wales rivals in the Europa Conference League

Fry Electronics Team

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