Pat Fenlon's Shelbourne have bowed out of the Champions League on a scoreline of 4-1 - on aggregate and on the night - that flatters their opponents Steaua Bucharest.

Shelbourne finished the stronger side with the introduction of Wesley Hoolahan and Joseph Ndo allowing them to play some football and find their way through the Bucharest defence. Unfortunately the concession of soft goals in the first half and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal gave them too large a mountain to climb in the end.

The stadium was half empty, but there was a definite partisan air. And, when the game began, it continued in the same vein as the first leg in Dublin had ended, with a good degree of niggle between the teams.

 
Shels were starting with the same defensive arrangement with Glen Crowe up front alone but within four minutes all game plan were turned on their heads as a seemingly innocuous incident involving Dave 'Scouse' Rogers and Steaua's Dica Nicolae resulted in both players being sent off.

French referee Claude Colombo appeared to get a rush of blood to the head as he dismissed both players on the advice of his assistant.

Immediately after the sendings-off, Alan Moore picked up a yellow card for a late and reckless challenge on Lovin.

However, Shelbourne were attacking well and won a corner after ten minutes. The ball swung in to Richie Baker whose header was saved by the keeper, but the rebound came out to Radoi who lashed his clearance back towards goal and was only saved by the woodwork. With the ball still bouncing all over the place, neither strikers nor defenders could get it under control under Radoi made up for his almost catastrophic error by clearing strongly.

There were yet more displays of aggression, with Jamie Harris and Iacob being spoken to by the ref after the Steaua player found himself on the ground in the box after a tussle.

With more controversy than football, neither side had been able to settle down and get control of the game. Steaua were enjoying more possession but, as with the first leg, seemed incapable of any sort of consistency and only showed flashes of their potential.

But on 19 minutes, after an aimless and panicky Shels clearance, Sorin Ghionea's long ball found Nicolita who exposed the massive gaps in the defence to sidefoot past Dean Delaney.

Seconds later, with the ball having been surrendered to Steaua from the re-start, Radoi fired just wide with Dean Delaney at full-stretch.

Ten minutes later, with the game having entered a lull period, a raid down the left by Steaua resulted in a weak cross which trickled across the endline and into the six-yard box. Delaney failed to come forward, Crawley and Harris were left stranded and Crawley's dreadful clearance came to Victoras Iacob who lashed it home for Steaua's second.

Suddenly Shels' formation was completely unsuited to the task, with a 2-0 deficit to chase. With Ndo and Hoolahan warming up on the sidelines it seemed as if Pat Fenlon was about to change the set-up, but it would be another half-hour before either saw action.

Steaua were having all the possession and all the chances, but were not being clinical enough in front of goal with Nicolita, Iacob, and Bostina all missing gilt-edged chances to extend their lead.

However, on 39 minutes, their frailty was exposed as a good ball in from the right from Ollie Cahill found Jason Byrne who headed the ball straight at the Steaua keeper who flapped at it as it sailed past him into the net.


The second-half started in much the same vein in which the first had ended, with Shels continuing to ride on the momentum of Byrne's goal.  But by the hour mark, Steaua had regained possession, if not complete control of the match.

Shels were defending frantically and it would be only a matter of time before there was a mistake. When Steaua pumped another long ball forward, it seemed a simple matter for Delaney to deal with. The Shels keeper, however, mis-kicked badly leaving Dinita with the ball and an open goal.

Wes Hoolahan's introduction gave Shelbourne another dimension and they seemed to relax and play football, beginning to open up gaps in a poor Steaua defence.

Hoolahan created some excellent chances, only to see his efforts wasted by his exhausted team-mates.

Perhaps Shels best chance of the game came from the left-hand side of the pitch as Hoolahan's cross found Glen Crowe, but the striker's shot bounced agonisingly across the face of the goal and wide.

With ten minutes left, Shels were now playing football and finding all the gaps that had been there from the start but had never been exploited.

A goal was needed but luck had deserted the eircom League champions and even the introduction of the mercurial Joseph Ndo - who showed some wonderful flair on the pitch but put the defence under massive pressure with a couple of ill-judged back passes - could not change the inevitable.

On 85 minutes, a long ball in from the wings found Jason Byrne whose header was more opportunistic than achievable.

Goal-scoroer Dinita turned villain with three minutes remaining when he was red carded for a second booking when he seemed unable to restrain himself, throwing himself to the ground in a vain attempt to win a free-kick in front of the Shels box.

Then, with one of the last attacks of the game, a Steaua through-ball was handled in the box by Owen Heary, resulting in a penalty that Daniel Oprita converted.

A 4-1 final score was harsh on Shelbourne who had suffered some bad luck in conceding two of the goals and, had they settled and played football earlier in the game, could have scored the goal that always looked likely to rattle a Steaua side that seemed unfit and psychologically brittle.

Rosenburg, Steaua's opponents in the third qualifying round, will do well to examine the videos of the two games closely. 

Watch highlights of the match.