A brace of goals from winger Marty Waters and a first goal for the club from central defender Dave Webster against their Luxembourg opponents eased Shamrock Rovers into the second qualifying round of the Europa League, as the poor weather failed to dampen the delight of the Tallaght Stadium crowd of 3,250.
Pat Fenlon’s side go through to, almost certainly, meet Odds BK, as the Norwegian side lead Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova 3-0 ahead of their home leg tomorrow, with the first leg of the second round next week. In addition, Rovers receive further prizemoney from UEFA of €210,000, on top of the €200,000 already assured for qualifying.
Though there was no sign of Damien Duff, his parents and brother were in attendance as guests of Rovers, adding fuel to the speculation that the 100-times capped Republic of Ireland legend is about to sign for the Hoops.
Quietly confident going into this second leg, Rovers boss Fenlon named an unchanged side from the 0-0 draw in Luxembourg.
In stark contrast to the 31-degree heat at kick-off in that first leg last week, it was a cool, rainy night in Tallaght as Progrès, with three changes in their line-up, had the first shot in anger on five minutes; Olivier Cassan shooting wide from Alessandro Fiorani’s lay off.
Seven minutes later, Progrès winger Hakim Menai’s ball in behind was just a shade too far ahead of the run of Cassan before Craig Hyland gathered.
Rovers continued to live dangerously in the early stages, as they survived another scare on 16 minutes when striker Giuseppe Rossini’s glancing header from Sebastian Thill’s deep free kick flashed inches wide.
However, it was all sweetness and light on 21 minutes, when Rovers took the lead. Progrès left-back Fiorini was guilty of a foul on Gary McCabe. A poor clearance from Waters’ free kick into the area dropped for Brandon Miele who returned the ball in for Webster to score with a calm, side-foot effort.
Gavin Brennan headed over the top from a Waters cross minutes later.
However, Progrès remained threatening on the counter as, again, a final contact just couldn’t be made in front of goal. This time it was Menai, from a Mickael Garos cross on 33 minutes, as Rovers scrambled the ball clear.
It mattered not, as Rovers doubled their lead in clinically punishing a goalkeeping error on 40 minutes.
Simon Madden’s ball in from the right flank off his left-foot was spilled by Sebastian Flauss, and Waters reacted superbly to the loose ball to dive in and head to the empty net for a poacher’s finish.
Rovers sealed their passage with the goal of the game from an incisive counterattack 12 minutes into the second half.
The impressive Madden broke again on the right. He fed the ball inside to Patrick Cregg who helped it on to Drennan.
The striker then laid the ball into the path of Waters arriving from the left and he swept a sweet left-foot side-footer to the net.
It should have been 4-0 on 74 minutes. Madden again was involved in putting Drennan clean through on goal. Keeper Flauss did well to get his body in the way and deflect the shot out for a corner.
Hyland; Madden, Webster, Clancy, Byrne; McCabe, Cregg; G. Brennan, Miele, Waters (R. Brennan, 75); Drennan (North, 87).
Flauss; Ferino, Bouzid, Dog, Fiorini (Bossi, 75); Garos, S. Thill (O. Thill, 77); Menai, Cassan, Rougeaux (Poinsignon, 67); Rossini.
Dominik Ouschan (Austria).