'It was the warmest I can remember' - Pat Fenlon pleased with draw in Luxembourg
FC Progrès 0 Shamrock Rovers 0 Europa League 1st Qualifying Round
Craig Hyland made two remarkable second-half saves in the proverbial game of two halves at the Stade d'Oberkorn in Differdange, Luxembourg, last night.
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 at Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday night.
Fenlon said: ‘I suppose we haven’t been beaten, which is important.
“We would have liked to have nicked a goal, obviously. I thought early on we probably could have scored.
“We started really well and had three great chances which would have put the game to bed.
“When you come away in Europe, if you score early it can demoralise the home team a little bit as they know it’s an uphill battle.
“If we’d taken one or two of the chances, it’s game over. But credit to them – they had a go at us in the second half.
“We were then hanging on a little. But I thought the back four defended well and our goalkeeper has made some good saves.”
The sapping 30 degree heat undoubtedly took its toll on Rovers in that second half.
Fenlon said: “I said it to Hendo (Dave Henderson). I’ve been to some hot places like Ljubjlana and Split, but that was probably the warmest I can remember.
“It was a difficult day for the players. They worked tremendously hard and they probably ran out of a little bit of steam.”
As for the second leg, Fenlon added: “We’d hope to have a few payers back by the tme they come to Dublin.
“We’ve got a handle on them now and know where we can cause them problems.
“But I’m sure they’ll be thinking the same thing, thinking about coming to us and geting an away goal. It’s game still very much on.”
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 the ball back and cross it off his left foot for Marty Waters, whose glancing header wasn’t far wide of Sebastian Flauss’ far post.
Rovers got in behind again on the opposite flank five minutes later. This time Brandon Miele, after working a one-two with Gavin Brennan, put Mikey Drennan through down the inside-left channel, but 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 away from punishing a defensive mistake when he shaved 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.
The chances kept coming for Rovers and McCabe cleverly beat two defenders only to scuff his shot off target on 21 minutes.