Chencinski ice cool as Shamrock Rovers progress

Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper forced into some timely interventions against Stjarnan

Shamrock Rovers 1 Stjarnan 0 (Shamrock Rovers won 2-0 on aggregate)

The talk before these European ties tends to revolve about how much tighter they are than domestic games but not this, which was a world away from the cagey conclusion to a closely balanced contest that the pre-match press conference might have left you expecting.

Happily for Irish side they came out on top again thanks to a Graham Burke goal and a healthy spread of strong individual performances. There may have been times early on when it seemed less than certain to turn out that way, and though they generally defended well enough Tomer Chencinski provided a timely reminder of just how important it is to have a strong last line of defence.

The Canadian international made an outstanding save in each half for Rovers. If the Dubliners seemed to be edging their way towards a second round encounter with Czech side Mlada Boleslav and the €225,000 in cash that comes with it by the time he pushed Hilmar Halldorsson's close range drive over, his early double stop from Alex Hauksson then Halldorsson felt as least as important as Burke's tap in.

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The managers had both gone with teams unchanged from last week’s game in Reykjavik, but Stjarnan’s clearly thought that he could get more from a line-up that had come slightly short last time out.

They certainly held their own for the most part here and caught sight of goal on enough occasions through the opening half to keep Stephen Bradley anxious. But they looked terribly vulnerable when on the back foot and were a little fortunate only to have slipped a second goal behind on aggregate at the break.

For quite a while they matched Rovers chance-for-chance in term of numbers created, but the ones Bradley's side generated were generally better quality and although Burke's goal came after good work by Brandon Miele and Trevor Clarke it was helped along by some pretty poor defending.

Stjarnan sought to step things up as the time they had to stage a comeback slipped steadily away, but they never looked to have the higher gears required to put their hosts under any really sustained pressure.

Ronan Finn had looked the game's best player early on while Roberto Lopes had what must be right up there in terms of games for his new club, By contrast Stjarnan, despite the occasional standout pass, lacked a player capable of getting on the ball in midfield and driving them forward.

Ultimately, the second half had a greater intensity about it but there were fewer clear cut chances for either side and Rovers always looked to be on course to qualify once they had come through the Icelandic side’s best spell of possession immediately after the interval.

Much later than that Chencinski stepped up again when some confusion among his defenders allowed Gudjon Baldvinsson the opportunity to give his side a late lifeline but the goalkeeper was quickly off his line as the striker turned and did well to smother his shot.

The locals, though, had a couple of chances to put the tie to bed late on, the best of them falling to Michael O'Connor who was sent clean through on Haraldur Bjornsson who saved well with his trailing leg.

Two wins and two clean sheets is about as much as Bradley could have asked of his side over these two legs. Yet there must be a sense that they will have to be better again back here next Thursday if they turn a one round progression into a run worthy of the name.

Shamrock Rovers: Chensinski; Madden, Lopes Webster, Byrne; Finn, Connolly (Bolger, 87 mins), Miele, Burke (McAllister, 79 mins), Clarke; Shaw. (O'Connor, 69 mins)

Stjarnan: Bjornsson; J Laxdal, Gudjonsson, D Laxdal, Josefsson; Hauksson (Finsen, 49 mins), Hedinsson; Fridjonsson (Hilmarsson, 90+3 mins), Sigurdsson (Aegisson, 78 mins), Halldorsson; Baldvinsson.

Referee: G Nybeerg (Sweden).

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times