Spartak Trnava and Sligo Rovers played out a game of two halves in the Europa League, but unfortunately for the Airtricity League runners-up, their Slovakian opponents led by three goals at the break to record a crucial home victory in the Europa League Second Qualifying Round.
Ian Baraclough's side started well, with Raffaele Cretaro and Joseph Ndo linking to win a corner as Sligo sought an away goal. Neither goalkeeper was tested in the first 10 minutes, but a mistake from Danny Ventre allowed Czech midfielder Vlastimil Stožický in to get the first shot on target after 14 minutes.
Sligo had the best chance of the half, with David Cawley finding Cretaro with a deft touch, but the shot went narrowly wide to keep the game scoreless. Gary Rogers had to be sharp to keep out Patrik Gross's long-range effort, but Rovers defended well, the resulting corner came to nothing.
The same couldn't be said of the next corner kick, which saw captain Miroslav Karhan rise unmarked to head in from six yards to give the Slovaks a 37th-minute lead. Two disastrous minutes at the end of the half saw Sligo go three down, with midfielder Martin Mikovič netting twice.
The first was almost cleared, but despite Gavin Peers' best efforts on the line, he couldn't stop the ball from going in. Mikovic's second came from a mishit back pass from Ross Gaynor which the 21-year-old winger picked up to squeeze past Rogers.
A Rovers resurgence in the second half saw Cretaro hit the crossbar and Danny North have a penalty appeal turned down when he was checked in the box, while Joseph Ndo stung goalkeeper Miroslav Filipko's hands with a free kick. The Bit O'Red finally got the goal they deserved when Ndo pulled back a free kick for North, who centred for Gavin Peers to head in.
Peers and North both went agonisingly close at the end as Rovers searched for a second away goal, but could only end up getting one back to finish 3-1. Sligo will be disappointed not to have taken more of their chances in the second half, and now must win by at least two goals to progress in next Thursday's second leg at the Showgrounds.
Meanwhile, Irish League side Portadown suffered a heavy 6-0 defeat at the hands of Slaven Koprivnica in their Europa League tie. A Garry Breen own goal opened the floodgates in the first minute with Tomislav Bušić scoring twice and Nikola Rak grabbing a second-half hat-trick to effectively knock Ports out of Europe.