Hyland the hero as Shamrock Rovers earn draw in Luxembourg
FC Progrès Niederkorn 0 Shamrock Rovers 0
Craig Hyland made two remarkable second half saves in the proverbial game of two halves at the Stade d’Oberkorn in Differdange, Luxembourg.
And though both sides also hit the woodwork, on the evidence of the first half, Rovers' manager Pat Fenlon must feel quietly confident of getting through this tie at Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday night.
Despite the stifling 30 degree heat, Rovers started boldly, passing the ball well and opening Progrès up down the right flank on five minutes.
Simon Madden got forward to cut back and cross off his left foot. Marty Waters’ glancing header wasn’t far wide of Sebastian Flauss’ far post.
Rovers got in behind on the opposite flank five minutes later. This time Brandon Miele, after working a one-two with Gavin Brennan, put Mikey Drennan in down the inside left channel. French defender Samuel Dog got across well to nick the ball off the Hoops’ striker’s toe for Rovers’ first corner.
Four minutes after that Drennan was inches from punishing a defensive mistake when shaving the outside of a post with a low drive as Rovers maintained the upperhand.
Brennan then brought the first save out of Progrès keeper Sebastian Flauss with a header from Gary McCabe’s free kick on the right.
And the chances kept coming for Rovers. McCabe cleverly beat two defenders only to scuff his shot off target on 21 minutes.
Progrès gradually came into it with Hakim Menai having their first chance when shooting into the side-netting on 27 minutes.
The Luxembourg side were gifted a second sight of the Rovers goal on 35 minutes from Hyland’s poor clearance.
But Giuseppe Rossini skied the chance over the top. Rovers then had a right let off two minutes later.
Valentin Poinsignon picked out poorly marked dangerman Rossini whose lob came back off a post.
Their confidence raised, Progrès had another chance before the break with Rossini bringing a comfortable save out of Hyland from Poinsignon’s left wing cross.
But Hyland had to make his first telling save with a superb stop from Rossini’s header from Thill’s cross with the ball frantically scrambled clear in the first minute after the restart.
Not surprisingly in the heat, the tempo of the game dropped, before Rovers had Hyland to thank for the save of the game on 74 minutes.
Cassan had a shot blocked away with the ball setting up nicely for Thill and the midfielder’s curling shot with the outside of his left foot was brilliantly touched away one-handed by Hyland.
FC Progrès Niederkorn: Flauss; Rigo (Ferino, 40), Bouzid, Dog, Marques Soares; Menai (Rougheaux, 68), Garos, Thill, Poising (Fiorini, 80); Cassan; Rossini.
Shamrock Rovers: Hyland; Madden, Webster, Clancy, Byrne; Cregg, McCabe; Waters (D. Kavanagh, 75), Miele (C. Kavanagh, 81), G. Brennan; Drennan.
Referee: Zaven Hovhannisyan (Armenia).