“We played very well,” said Hoops boss Michael O’Neill. “I thought we dominated the game from start to finish. We had a lot of good opportunities and a lot of great balls into the box, but we just didn’t manage to get that final touch. But over the two legs I think we showed that we were the dominant side.”
It was Alan Mannus’s farewell appearance for the Hoops before he moves to St Johnstone and the keeper can hardly have enjoyed many more trouble-free outings, as Rovers comfortably secured the scoreless draw which meant Chris Turner’s goal in Tallaght a week ago was the decisive act in 180 minutes of football.
And, as in Tallaght Stadium, Rovers were in the ascendancy in the first half, although this time they couldn’t get the goal their dominance deserved.
On the other hand, Flora were barely given a sniff of the Rovers goal this time around, with Mannus virtually a bystander in contrast to the first leg when, against the run of play, he was obliged to save a penalty minutes before Turner gave the Hoops the lead.
At home, Flora were, if anything, even less threatening with Sergei Mosnikov and Henri Anier failing to worry the keeper on the only two occasions when the home side were given a sight of goal in the first 45.
Rovers should have made more of their own half-chances, with Ronan Finn snatching at a shot in a promising position, after a great climb and head down by the hard-working Gary Twigg, and then Dean Kelly shot over the top after creating the opportunity for himself by cutting in superbly from the left.
Certainly, it was the visitors who went into the break looking the more composed side but the narrowness of their aggregate lead meant that their noisy travelling support couldn’t begin to take anything for granted.
As it turned out, Flora’s only real chance of an uneventful second half came in the final minute when Luts’s bending free-kick from just outside the box flew harmlessly over the bar.
Eight minutes before that, Rovers might have conclusively settled the affair as, Dean Kelly was granted the freedom of the box but keeper Stanislav Podek was able to gather his headed effort at the far post. Minutes later, with the vulnerable home defence again under pressure, Billy Dennehy lifted his shot just over the bar as Rovers turned the screw.
It didn’t matter. It was mission accomplished for the Hoops, with Chris Turner’s first-leg goal proving enough to see the Irish champions through to the next round where they know they will face an altogether more formidable challenge in the form of FC Copenhagen.
Coincidentally, Rovers fly back from Tallinn through the Danish capital today and Michael O’Neill and his assistant Jim Magilton will take the opportunity to stay over and watch their next Champions League opponents play a friendly against West Ham, before the Hoops travel to Denmark for next week’s first leg.
FLORA TALLINN: Pedok, Kams, Palatu, Baranov, Jurgenson, Alliku (Dupikov 9), Minkenen, Mosnikov (Beglarishvilli 71), Masitev (Peitre 87), Luts, Henri Anier
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannu; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Stevens; Dennehy, Turner (O’Donnell 82), Finn, McCormack, Kelly, Twigg
Referee: D Meckarovski (Macedonia).