Shelbourne hold Deportivo at Lansdowne

 

Carl O'Malley at Lansdowne Road

Shelbourne 0-0 Deportivo

We heard there were divisions in the camp and disgust at the paltry eight fans that travelled to Dublin, but in the end the only reason Deportivo La Coruna could not leave with a win last tonight, was because Shelbourne matched them all over the pitch.

If the third placed Primera Liga side, last year's Champion's League semi-finalists, had internal turmoil prior to their meeting with Pat Fenlon's men, a Spanish inquisition is surely on the cards now.

Lansdowne Road was commandeered, the pitch was narrowed and the fight, desire and skill that has epitomised Shels all season turned up too.

The first half of the Champions League third qualifying round first leg began with an expectant roar as Shels stuck to their European game plan with a five-man midfield and Glen Fitzpatrick leading the line.

Wes Hoolahan and Alan Moore eagerly sought possession in the middle of the park, while Deportivo playmaker Juan Valeron commanded the immediate attention of Stuart Byrne who never let him steal an inch.

Depor struggled to string their passes together but nevertheless endeavoured to bring wingers Luque and Victor into the game.

Frustration was not long creeping in for the visitors, Luque in particular, as each ball was either pushed long and out to safety, or anticipated perfectly by captain Owen Heary at right back.

Shelbourne's discipline was exemplary, hounding their opponents into rushed crossfield balls and back passes.

Chances for either side were few and far between and it wasn't until the 45th minute that a shot hit the target.

In the interim there were half chances and unpunished mistakes but the middle of the field was where most of the action came.

Walter Pandiani threatened after 16 minutes when Luque got brief respite from Heary and swung in a cross that the Uruguayan flashed across the face of the goal.

Moments later Jason Byrne's free from the right side drifted agonisingly over Jamie Harris's head.

Byrne himself could have opened the scoring when he arrived late in the box to pick up Heary's pull back. But the hitman, usually so deadly in those situations, deflected it into the path of a grateful defender.

Steve Williams then made light work of Sanchez's 45th minute effort.

A rapturous roar, akin to ten trains trundling under the West Stand, ushered the teams off the pitch at halftime. The dressing rooms undoubtedly preparing for vastly contrasting team talks.

Whatever was said, the visitors came out fired up and so nearly broke the deadlock when Victor pulled his shot wide after Sergio Gonzalez tapped a neat ball between Dave Rogers and Harris.

Harris was fortunate a minute later when, after he misjudged the flight of an innocuous through ball and allowed Pandiani straight through.  Only a perfectly timed tackle from Heary kept Shels level.

Panic over, and Shels managed to settle down but the home side were still struggling to get decent support to Glen Fitzpatrick, whose first touch let him down on a number of occasions.

Fenlon decided to replace Fitzpatrick with Joseph Ndo after the hour and move Jason Byrne up front.

Shels were rejuvenated and put a shaky 15 minutes behind them.  Ndo's pace and Byrne's touch worked well, as Ollie Cahill began to get the better of Manuel Garcia on the left.

As the game wore on the fans could sense there was something there for the homeside, as did the team.  Hoolahan and Moore had no doubt, and the latter saw a glancing header diverted around the post by substitute keeper Gustavo Munua.

Luqu's replacement came moments later, a testament to the job done by Heary.  Pedro Munitis was the newcomer but he was treated with similar disdain by the Shels captain, popping up once more to fire tamely wide.

As the night sky rolled in and the chants and jeers grew louder, Shels made their illustrious opposition work for every ball and if they had a touch of fortune they may well have nicked a historic goal.

As history goes though, this performance will stay in the memory for all who witnessed it.  Whether it can be reproduced on Spanish soil in a fortnight's time is another matter, but then, we know by now, Shels will die trying.