Friday 19 January 2018

Spirited Rovers set up Czech bonus

Shamrock Rvs 1-0 Stjarnan (Rovers win 2-0 on aggregate)

Luke Byrne tries to get away from Baldur Sigurðsson during the Europa League match in Tallaght. Photo: Sportsfile
Luke Byrne tries to get away from Baldur Sigurðsson during the Europa League match in Tallaght. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The backers behind Shamrock Rovers have big plans, but they need some kind of return on their investment. And, in that context, this was an extremely productive night in Tallaght.

Stephen Bradley's side followed up last week's single-goal win in Iceland by eking out a victory by the same margin to end Stjarnan's European campaign.

In doing so, they added another €225,000 to the cheque that will come their way from UEFA with the current total standing at €440,000.

That's a substantial return at their level, and illustrates why any Irish clubs with ambition of building a stable club have to be in the European picture.

Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers and his team-mates celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers and his team-mates celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

These ties have cup-final importance for the people running the show and the celebrations at full-time told their own story.

Earlier in the season, questions were asked about the mental strength of a young Rovers squad and management team but there are real signs that the penny is dropping.

They fully deserved to advance to a second-round meeting with Czech side Mlada Boleslav after a solid performance in the circumstances. The home game is next Thursday.

Bradley has exciting attacking players at his disposal, youngsters who could still go on to do very well in the game, and Ireland boss Martin O'Neill was in attendance.

Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers has a shot on goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers has a shot on goal. Photo: Sportsfile

He must have been interested as he only left with three minutes remaining - managers keen to beat the crowds and traffic tend to leave earlier.

Three of Hoops' promising talents combined to break the deadlock and give the Dubliners a two-goal cushion.

Left winger Brandon Miele started the move with a dummy that outfoxed Johann Laxdal and opened up space for a cross that the in-demand Trevor Clarke squared for Graham Burke to slot the ball home.

Burke is a special talent, but disciplinary issues have held him back this term. When he's on song, the ex-Aston Villa player is a serious option in a playmaking role and a superb left-footed effort called Haraldur Bjornsson into action.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Hoops, though. Before their opener, they endured a nervous moment in the breakdown from a set-piece with Alex Por Hauksson's right-footer testing Tomer Chencinski and Roberto Lopes alert to block the follow-up from Hilmar Arni Halldorsson.

Lopes also made a pair of timely blocks before the interval in a spell where the Icelandic side really pressed and the hosts dropped deeper and lost their stranglehold on the game.

They did have an opportunity when Clarke was felled on the edge of the area amid shouts for a penalty, but there was a sense that they really needed the half-time whistle.

Pattern

The pattern for the second-half quickly became clear with Stjarnan piling bodies forward where possible with nothing to lose.

Rovers looked to catch them on the break and a burst of pace from Clarke that left a 4 v 2 situation - his cross was blocked - gave a flavour of the opportunities that were available.

Stjarnan were sporadically dangerous, however, and the well-travelled Chencinski earned his corn with a flying stop to deny the Halldorsson with a routine diagonal ball presenting the opening.

As the game entered its final quarter, their willingness to shoot from distance hinted at a certain desperation although Bradley was animated on the sideline as the blue shirts gathered a couple of stray clearances to take aim.

Their love of long throw-ins further tested the Hoops and the hosts rode their luck from one Laxdal weapon that fizzed across the six-yard box.

Bradley looked to his bench to see the game out and David McAllister made an important contribution to block a goal-bound shot that might have set up a tense conclusion.

That was Stjarnan's last real throw of the dice and the home side had chances to make things more comfortable with another replacement, Michael O'Connor, failing to convert a one-on-one. Ronan Finn's quality shone through in this phase.

At the death, tensions boiled over when Clarke was cynically hacked down with the benches engaging in verbals about a challenge that was borne from frustration. There were cheers when the highly-rated teenager got to his feet. This Rovers show will go on.

Shamrock Rovers - Chencinski; Madden, Lopes, Webster, Byrne; Miele, Finn, Connolly (Bolger 86), Clarke; Burke (McAllister 78); Shaw (O'Connor 69).

Stjarnan - Bjornsson; J Laxdal, D Laxdal, Gudjonsson, Josefsson; Hauksson (Finsen 48), Sigurdsson (Aegisson 78), Hedinsson; Fridjonsson (Hilmarsson 90), Baldvinsson, Halldorsson.

ref - Glenn Nyberg (Sweden).

Irish Independent

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