Thursday 23 November 2017

Stewart strike sets up dream Juve date

Bnei Yehuda 0
Shamrock Rovers 1
( Rovers win 2-1 on aggregate)

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Tel Aviv

Long throw-ins have a bad name, but Stephen Rice's effort last night helped earn Shamrock Rovers a dream Europa League tie with Juventus and the estimated €500,000-€700,000 that goes with it.

Tommy Stewart's 70th-minute strike means the Hoops go marching on from Tel Aviv and towards the Serie A giants from Turin. They rode their luck in this second qualifying round second-leg clash, but the 100-strong travelling contingent didn't care one bit.

Robert Bayly's goalscoring heroics in the first leg earned him a start this time around in an otherwise unchanged Rovers line-up. He lined up as part of a three-man midfield, with Gary Twigg operating as a lone striker and James Chambers and Stewart on the wings.

And the Hoops were unlucky not to get the much-needed away goal within the opening four minutes as they took the game to the Israelis from the off.

Roared on by their vocal support, Gary Twigg's pass just evaded Thomas Stewart before Craig Sives beat goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba to an Enda Stevens cross only for Kfir Ediri to hook the ball behind. And from the corner, Dan Murray met James Chambers' delivery with a firm header that had the 'keeper beaten, but came back off the bar.

After making the early running, Rovers then allowed Yehuda own possession, but they did little with it for much of the half.

Goalkeeper Alan Mannus was called into action on 26 minutes, reacting brilliantly to deny Oz Ezra Raly after he was put through by playmaker Liroy Zhairi, yet the Northern Ireland international could do nothing but watch minutes later as Linig Sinisa Hrvatska's shot took a deflection off Eliya Yavruyan and spun just wide of the post.

Rovers got back into the game and Twigg had two half chances to take an advantage into the break. First, he headed over a Chambers cross, before Chris Turner put him beyond the defence, only for Ivan Garrido and Aviv Hadad to scramble back and dispossess him.

Scoreless at the break, Yehuda came out looking like it was they who needed a goal and but for the brilliance of Mannus, they would have got one.

First he saved a Yavruyan effort before then making a superb reaction stop to turn away a Zhariri point-blank header after good work from Ezra Raly on the right as the pressure grew.

Sinisa Hrvatska tried his luck with a rising drive that looked headed for the top corner, but Mannus got up to tip the ball over the bar with an acrobatic save. He then snuffed out a chance at the feet of Ezra Raly, but it was the Dublin side who stunned the hosts with a goal originating from a Rice throw-in.

There looked little danger for the Israelis, but Aidan Price flicked on the throw and Garrido missed it completely, allowing Stewart steal in and score.

Yehuda tried to hit back instantly, Zhairi having a shot go over and another saved. But Rovers looked dangerous on the break, with Rice firing over and sub Paddy Kavanagh having a shot snuffed out by the defence and, although the injury-time ticked past five minutes, the Hoops held on.

BNEI YEHUDA -- Aiyenugba; Azuz (Baldut 79), Garrido, Hadad, Edri; Abu Zaid (Levi 90), Zhairi, Hrvatsko (Menashe 74), Ezra Raly; Afek, Yavruyan.

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Sives, Murray, Price, Stevens; Chambers (Dennehy 64), Rice, Turner (Bradley 84), Bayly (Kavanagh 58), Stewart; Twigg.

REF -- A Gautier (FRA)

Irish Independent

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