Limerick FC defeated Sligo Rovers 5-1 at the Markets Field in a near perfect performance from Martin Russell’s men on their return to the premier division.
New signing Rodrigo Tosi bagged a hatrick on his competitive home debut along with goals from Ian Turner and Lee-J Lynch. Matthew Stevens scored the solitary Sligo goal on his debut.
It was evident from the opening exchanges that both managers had instructed their teams to play progressive football from defence to attack with both sets of midfielders dropping short for possession.
Limerick FC took the lead in the opening five minutes as a move from a Tommy Robson throw-in allowed Lee-J Lynch to shoot from outside the box. Michael Schlingermann could only parry the effort away and the returning Ian Turner reacted quickest to finish from close range to send the home support into raptures.
Approaching the quarter-hour mark, left-winger Kieran Sadlier forced Limerick goalkeeper Freddy Hall to push the ball over the crossbar to safety.
In a first-half of few chances, Limerick reverted to playing long balls towards target man Rodrigo Tosi and winger Dean Clarke in a bid to pressurise a nervous Sligo defence.
The home side doubled their lead midway through the first half as debutant Rodrigo Tosi beautifully controlled a drilled Lee-J Lynch cross from the right before firing the ball past Sclingermann in the visiting goal.
Incredibly, Tosi doubled his personal tally just five minutes later. Ian Turner provided a superb cross from the right which Tosi calmly headed into the bottom corner. At this point, Sligo looked totally shocked and were offering little in attack or defence.
Approaching half-time, the Super Blues came close to extending their lead as another Turner cross was almost turned into his own net by Tobi Adebayo-Rowling under pressure from Dean Clarke.
Unsurprisingly, Sligo boss Dave Robertson made two changes at the break, introducing striker Matthew Stevens in place of holding midfielder Chris Kenny and Kyle Callan-McFadden replacing Michael Leahy. As a result, Sligo changed to a 4-3-3 formation with Stevens, John Russell and Rafael Cretaro occupying the Limerick defence. It was Stevens who applied pressure on Williams to create the first meaningful chance of the second-half. From his cross, Rafael Cretaro saw his shot blocked by the impressive Tony Whitehead.
Sligo capitalised on a rare mistake by Freddy Hall to open their account for the season. A fizzing shot by Kieran Sadlier was parried by the Limerick ‘keeper to the onrushing Matthew Stevens who made no mistake from the rebound.
Sligo were dealt a major blow to their comeback bid approaching the final quarter of the game as the much travelled Rodrigo Tosi completed a dream home hatrick. The lively Dean Clarke crossed from the left and an initial Tosi header was brilliantly saved by Sclingermann. However, he was unable to deny the new man as he converted the rebound much to the joy of his new colleagues.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the Shannonsiders were awarded a penalty but Ian Turner failed to convert the resulting spot-kick as he placed the ball straight into the hands of the waiting Michael Schlingermann. However, the home support would not have to wait long for the fifth goal as Sligo substitute Kyle Callan-McFadden misjudged a long ball and Lee-J Lynch expertly chipped the ball into the net from all of 20 yards.
A raft of substitutions were introduced in the final ten minutes which caused the game to ebb and flow with very little rhythm. It is unlikely that the majority of the 2357 supporters in attendance and manager Martin Russell will care about that as the Super Blues enjoyed a dream return to the Airtricity League Premier Division with an unexpected 5-1 victory.
Limerick FC: Freddy Hall, Shaun Kelly, Tony Whitehead, Robbie Williams, Tommy Robson, Bastien Hery (Paul O’Conor 84), Shane Duggan, Lee-J Lynch, Ian Turner, Dean Clarke (Chiedozie Ogbene 70), Rodrigo Tosi (Chris Mulhall 77).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Barry Cotter, Stephen Kenny, Garbhan Coughlan.
Yellow cards: Shane Duggan (24)
Red cards: None
Sligo Rovers: Michael Schlingermann, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Michael Leahy (Kyle Callan McFadden HT) Gary Boylan, Regan Donelan, Daniel Kearns, Craig Roddan, John Russell, Kieran Sadlier, Chris Kenny (Matthew Stevens HT) Raffaele Cretaro (Jonah Ayunga 84).
Subs not used: Shaun Patton, John Mahon, Mikey Place, John Mahon, Jack Keaney.
Yellow cards: None
Red cards: None
Referee: Graham Kelly
Sporting Limerick Man of the Match: Rodrigo Tosi (Limerick FC)