Alessandro Del Piero was the Juventus supersub as he rolled back the years with a brilliant goal to beat brave Shamrock Rovers at the Stadio Braglia in Modena.
Half-time substitute Del Piero’s stunning cameo arrived on 74 minutes when the 35-year-old rifled a 30-yard free-kick to the roof of the net to delight the home crowd and rubberstamp Juve’s place in Friday’s play-off round draw.
Heavy rain for much of the day and torrential downpours in the hour before kick off meant the game was very much in doubt.
Greek referee Georgios Daloukas inspected the pitch some 30 minutes before kick-off with his decision to deem it playable was most questionable.
If anything, the saturated pitch proved a leveller with Rovers giving as good as they got for much of the first half.
Indeed, Michael O’Neill’s side probably had its best chance on 34 minutes when Gary Twigg and Billy Dennehy both just failed to connect with the ball at the foot of a post after skipper Dan Murray had headed down a Stephen Bradley free-kick.
Either side of that Amauri, Juve’s two goal hero from the first leg, was the big danger, shooting wide after out muscling Aidan Price to add to an earlier header he planted off target.
Davide Lanzafame had also come close when almost benefiting from the soaked pitch as Marco Motta’s long ball bounced through for him past Pat Flynn. The shot was wide across goal.
Del Piero, the darling of the Juve fans, came on to raptures from the crowd and played his part in igniting a slow burner of a second half.
Lanzafame initially brought a parry save from Mannus before Del Piero set up Claudio Marchisio to force a stop at full stretch from the Northern Ireland international.
Amauri then planted a free header straight into the arms of Mannus from Del Piero’s corner.
This was Juventus’s best spell of pressure in the game and Murphy had to clear off the line after Mannus’ punch fell to Mohamed Sissoko.
Cue Del Piero’s moment of magic on 74 minutes.
Murray may have been angered by the concession of a free kick for a foul on Amauri.
There was nothing ambiguous about Del Piero’s direct strike on goal as the ball arrowed to the roof of Mannus’ net for an utterly sublime goal.
Not settling for that, Del Piero had a header wide before a surging run and shot that was just over the top.
At the other end of the ground, the saturated Rovers fans, numbering at least 1,000, sang and chanted their hearts out throughout the game.
Their choicest chant of 'this is the best trip I’ve ever been on' just about summing up Shamrock Rovers' Europa League adventure.
Juventus: Storari; Motta, Chiellini, Bonucci, De Ceglie; Pepe, Sissoko, Marchisio, Lanzafame; Diego (Del Piero, h/t), Amauri (Trezeguet, 81 mins.).
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Flynn, Murray, Price, Murphy; Kavanagh (Stewart, h/t), Rice (Bayly, 59 mins.), Bradley, Chambers (Turner, h/t), Dennehy; Twigg.
Referee: Georgios Daloukas (Greece).