Byrne leads Shel's rout of Glentoran
Shelbourne 4 Glentoran 1 (Shelbourne win 6-2 on aggregate)
Another Jason Byrne double sealed Shelbourne’s place in the second qualifying round of the Champions League against 10-man Glentoran at Tolka Park tonight.
Byrne built on his brace against the Northern Irish champions in Belfast last week to book his side a high-profile clash against former European Cup winners Steaua Bucharest.
Glentoran battled well in a bid to recover that 2-1 first leg deficit but their chance disappeared along with Paul Leeman on the half-hour when the big centre-half was dismissed for handball in the box.
Byrne coolly grabbed his first of the night from the spot to extend Shelbourne’s aggregate advantage to 4-2 and effectively end the visitors’ hopes of mounting a revival.
Seeking to build on Sean Ward’s late strike last week which had given his side hope, Glentoran boss Roy Coyle named an entirely new strike-force and his side were boosted by a sizeable and noisy travelling support.
But Shelbourne seized back the initiative with Byrne spooning a simple chance wide in the third minute and Glen Crowe denied a shooting chance by a fine Shaun Holmes challenge.
The home side’s deserved opener arrived in the 13th minute when captain Owen Heary met David Crawley’s long free-kick in the box and headed past Elliott Morris to extend his side’s aggregate lead.
But just when Shelbourne looked safe, the visitors hit back with a goal out of nothing in the 21st minute, recalled Michael Halliday squaring for Peter McCann to poke home in the box.
Moments after McCann’s strike the home side could have restored their advantage when Richie Baker’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Leeman.
But despite continuing to defend deep, Glens’ goal had certainly given much hope to their travelling fans.
Crowe missed another chance for Shelbourne on the half-hour when fine work from Crawley and Byrne set up the striker, who spooned over the bar from close range.
But the home side went back in front in the 32nd minute after referee Peter Sippel judged Leeman had handled Stuart Byrne’s powerful drive in the box.
Jason Byrne’s resulting penalty gave Glentoran little hope of mounting a comeback and the home side continued to hold the upper-hand in a mature second half performance.
The busy Richie Baker was in the thick of things again in the 52nd minute when his lofted cross sailed just too high for the unmarked Jason Byrne to meet in the box.
Shelbourne effectively booked their clash with Bucharest in the 58th minute when Crowe struck a superb right-foot volley into the top corner from Heary’s right-wing cross.
And although the visitors kept gamely battling on, it was always likely the home side were going to increase their tally through the dangerous Byrne up front.
The striker’s reward came in the 71st minute when Heary again crossed from the right to find Byrne unmarked to head home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Byrne later departed to a standing ovation having sealed the start of what he hopes will be another European adventure for the Eircom League champions.
And with memories of last season’s wins over Reykjavik and Hajduk Split still fresh in the mind, on this evidence Pat Fenlon’s men will approach their task with justifiable confidence.