Shamrock Rovers show class to qualify for Europa League second round

Graham Burke’s excellent first half strike capped off an assured performance from Stephen Bradley’s side.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 1

Stjarnan 0

(2-0 on aggregate)

Aaron Gallagher reports from Tallaght Stadium

SHAMROCK ROVERS secured their passage into the second round of the Europa League qualification stages with an assured 1-0 victory over Stjarnan in Tallaght Stadium, Graham Burke’s well-worked first half winner proving decisive to set up an intriguing tie with Czech outfit FK Mlada Boleslav.

The Hoops took a 1-0 lead and a priceless away goal into the second leg in Dublin thanks to an efficient win in Iceland via a fine Gary Shaw finish seven days ago.

Manager Stephen Bradley, however, challenged his players to seal the deal with another win in front of their own supporters and not to simply play for the draw which would have seen them through on Thursday night.

Rovers were always in control of this game and showcased all of the quality which has been witnessed in glimpses throughout this season in the Premier Division.

Shamrock Rovers' fans celebrate Graham Burke's goal Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

They performed brilliantly and barring a few lapses which forced goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski to earn his keep with a set of excellent saves, Rovers provided a complete performance against a sheepish Stjarnan who offered little in attack until it was too late.

Burke set the tempo when he fired the game’s first shot flying over the crossbar before the visitors marked their presence.

Alex Hauksson struck a fine effort from the edge of the box which forced Chencinski into a brilliant low save before centre back Roberto Lopes was called upon to provide the second line of defence.

The Rovers goalkeeper palmed the ball where winger Hilmar Arni Halldorsson attempted to fire the ball into the back of the net at the near post. Lopes, however, showcased bravery and intelligence to get his body in the way and clear the effort out for a corner.

That was as close as Stjarnan came in a first half where Rovers always looked in command. This confidence was justified when they took the lead after just 20 minutes. A Brandon Miele cross seemed to scupper out of play before the agility of Trevor Clarke not only kept the ball in play but provided a superb cross back into the box.

Tomer Chencinski celebrates Graham Burke's goal Tomer Chencinski celebrates Graham Burke's goal. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Launching into the danger zone was Burke was tapped the cross past goalkeeper Haraldur Bjornsson to make it 2-0 on aggregate, meaning the visitors had to score at least two goals if they were to cause Stephen Bradley’s side any complications to their passage into the next round.

Stajnan knew a mountain lay ahead of them if they were to stand a chance at qualification. Despite a minimal performance in the opening 45 minutes the side, who finished fourth in the Icelandic Premier League last season, came out all guns blazing after the interval.

A decisive sliding tackle from captain Ronan Finn prevented a shot on goal which could easily have halved the deficit. This before goalkeeper Chencinski made a pair of saves, one plucking the ball from nestling into the top corner with a strong, athletic arm.

Shamrock Rovers' fans after their side scored a goal Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The second a more routine gathering following a low shot at his near post as Runar Pail Sigmundsson’s side pushed their opponents into their own final third.

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Brandon Miele nearly made it 3-0 on aggregate with a superb free kick which brushed millimetres from settling over the Stjarnan wall and into the bottom corner.

While second half substitute Ólafur Karl Finsen had a pair of close chances which forced more excellent saves from Chencinki.

But ultimately the visitors did not possess the quality to get a goal over the two legs as more shots reigned down firstly substitute Michael O’Connor and then Miele again, as the pitch opened up and Rovers realised victory was within reach.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Tomer Chencinski, Simon Madden, David Webster, Roberto Lopes, Luke Byrne, Ryan Connolly (Aaron Bolger 87), Ronan Finn, Graham Burke (David McAllister 78), Trevor Clarke, Brandon Miele, Gary Shaw (Michael O’Connor 69)

SJARNAN: Haraldur Bjornsson, Ottar Bjarni Gudmundsson, Josef Josefsson, Daniel Laxdal, Johann Laxdal, Holmbert Fridjonsson (Máni Hilmarsson 94), Hilmar Arni Halldorsson, Alex Hauksson (Olafur Karl Finsen 49), Eyjolfur Hedinsson, Baldur Sigurdsson (Heidar Aegisson 78), Gudjon Baldvinsson

Referee: Glenn Nyberg

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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