Shamrock Rovers got their foot into the next round of the Champions League with a resounding win over Hibernians

In the best sense of the word, this was a surreal European night for Shamrock Rovers.

The Hampions League games shouldn’t be like this for Irish clubs. The sizeable crowd that descended on Dublin 24 is used to the nervous energy and anticipation that comes with trying to kill giants at this level.

Draws in the Premier competition have proved difficult for our top dogs to win. In the decade since Rovers slipped past Flora Tallinn of Estonia with a 1-0 aggregate score in 2011, only two League of Ireland-winning teams have progressed through the early stages.

It would take one of the greatest disasters in football history here for Rovers to drive those fine margins in next Tuesday’s decider.

They travel to Malta with a three-goal cushion largely inspired by the performances of Rory Gaffney, although his contribution has not been without controversy as he was blessed to avoid a second-half red card that could potentially ruin proceedings lent a different complexion and created a level of concern that seemed implausible in the first 45 where Hibernians were terrible.

That shouldn’t detract from the efforts of Stephen Bradley’s side, even if their performance was rough at times.


Shamrock Rovers’ Rory Gaffney celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal against Hibernians

Irish teams are not always comfortable with the favorites tag and without the skills of Jack Byrne and Graham Burke, two players adept at beating an opponent with a defensive game plan by the numbers, a degree of patience was required. and they got the job done reasonably efficiently.

His exercise showed the importance of seeded status at this stage of the competition.

The draw was also extremely favorable as there were far better sides than Hibernians as possible opponents, including Lech Poznan, champions of Poland who beat Qarabag last night.

But ranking points from regular qualifying put Rovers on the side of the draw that opened up that opportunity.

Hibernians are clearly a modest team but they are also in pre-season and without key players and management due to suspensions resulting from a controversial European exit last year with a team of Irish officials.

Their plight was highlighted by the emergency signing of 37-year-old Brazilian defender Rodolfo Soares, a club legend who fell a notch before the SOS call.

In the opening minutes, despite the presence of 7,000 spectators, Rovers striker Aaron Greene could be heard urging full-back Andy Lyons to try to expose the lack of mobility in the fulcrum of their five-man defense by putting the ball in the back .

It became difficult for the Hoops to do so because the blackshirts ran such a low block without a real desire to cross the centerline.

What they needed was a bit of quality to pick the lock and it was supplied by Gaffney, whose level of performance has increased since injuries sustained by Byrne, Burke and also Lincoln-tied Danny Mandroiu.

With Greene carrying on, Gaffney became the link between midfield and attack and he scored both first-half goals for the hosts with strong overtaking and dangerous crosses converted by onrushing colleagues.

Skipper Ronan Finn scored the first, a milestone for the veteran when he hit the bull’s eye on his 48th attempt in European competition. Playmaker Dylan Watts sacked the second, anticipating the timing of Gaffney’s delivery as the Maltese shut down.

At intermission it looked like it was going to be a routine night, but there was a reminder of the dangers of switching off afterwards. Hibernians blasted the imposing Terence Groothusen in the center forward and he smashed in, hitting the woodwork with a long-range thunderbolt.

More specifically, Hibernians found a way to unmask Rovers on the break and there was huge disappointment when Thaylor slipped in behind Lee Grace and deflected the ball wide of the post as Alan Mannus was batted.

The atmosphere was momentarily permeated with fear. And then there was aggression, a moment of insanity from Gaffney as he kicked at Gabriel Artiles after being wrestled to the ground. Somehow the officials missed clear boot-to-face contact and awarded a pair of yellows.

Riots broke out in the directors’ area when members of the visiting delegation concluded that the officers were trying to get them back. Home fans told them to come down.

Insult was added to the injury with Gaffney’s coup de grace, an extended one-two with Sub Aidomo Emakhu crowned by a calm finish to take the stress out of proceedings.

Emakhu has the pace that should make him a real threat on the bench in this European campaign and was denied a fourth when Bradley called the dying stage changes to see a result that pointed them towards the likelihood of a The clash in the second round should provoke the Bulgarian elite of Ludogorets.

Cloverleaf Rover: Mannus, Hoare, Lopes, Grace; Finn (Gannon 81), O’Neill, McCann, Lyon; watts (Towell 81); Greene (Emakhu 67), Gaffney (Ferizaj 85).

Hibernians: Kone, Grech (Caruana 89), Bravo, Soares, Artiles, Zerafa (Fonseca 89); Diakite, Vella, Mensah (Groothusen 45); Thaylor, Degabriele.

Referee: Morton Krogh (Denmark). Shamrock Rovers got their foot into the next round of the Champions League with a resounding win over Hibernians

Fry Electronics Team

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