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The European dream ended for Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night as they were defeated 1-0 by Italian giants Juventus thanks to a stunning free-kick from Alessandro Del Piero.
On a night of torrential rain in Italy, The Hoops were well supported by their 800 travelling fans and gave a good account of themselves against one of the heavyweights of the European game. However despite their admirable performance Rovers were still outclassed by the Italians and it seemed only a matter of time before a player of the ability of Del Piero would break the deadlock.
Michael O'Neill's men weren't without their chances in the game though and could have taken a shock lead in the 33rd minute. A free-kick from Pat Flynn was met by the head of Dan Murray but Billy Dennehy failed to connect with the ball and it went agonisingly wide.
Despite the horrendous conditions in Modena Rovers battled hard against the Italians but to no avail as the Juve centre-half partnership of Motta and Chiellini held firm, allowing Gary Twigg little time on the ball. The Dublin side seemed to cope with the rain better than Juventus and the slow, sedate pace of the game helped O'Neil's men somewhat.
Rovers were at their best with set-pieces and this was evident with the threat of Dan Murray who was causing all sorts of problems in the air for the Juventus defence. The condition of the pitch limited the amount of chances in the game with Rovers especially being limited to only a handful of chances.
Amauri, who scored twice in the first-leg of the tie in Tallaght, again caused the Hoops defence problems and could have killed off the tie in the 69th minute, but Alan Mannus was on hand to deny the 30-year-old striker.
Italian legend Del Piero was introduced at half-time to inject life into the Serie A team and he certainly managed that with a stunning free-kick from 35-yards that went in with the help off the crossbar, leaving Mannus with no chance. After that there was little Rovers could do but to their credit they kept battling on, with Robert Bayly and Twigg with the best of their half chances.
The Hoops could have bagged themselves a deserved draw at the death after Stephen Bradley's free-kick was yet again headed down by Murray, but there was no green and white jersey on hand to make it count.
Rovers will have no time to dwell on the defeat as they must now prepare for the visit of league champions and arch-rivals Bohemians to Tallaght on Sunday, in a game that may go a long way to deciding the title this season.
Juventus: Marco Storari; Marco Motta, Giorgio Chiellini (c), Mohamed Sissoko, Claudio Marchisio, Leonardo Bonucci, Davide Lanfazame, Simone Pepe, Diego (Alessandro Del Piero 46), Paulo De Cegile. Amauri (David Trezeguet 81).
Subs not used: Alex Manninger, Zdenek Grygera, Cristian Pasquato, Albin Ekdal, Nicola Legrottaglie
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Pat Flynn, Aidan Price, Dan Murray (c), Danny Murphy; Paddy Kavanagh (Thomas Stewart 46), James Chambers (Chris Turner 46), Stephen Bradley, Stephen Rice (Robert Bayly 58), Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Enda Stevens, Craig Sives, Sean O'Connor.
Referee: Georgios Daloukas (Greece)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Alan Mannus (Shamrock Rovers)
Frankie Lally writes for a number of publications. You can contact Frankie on Twitter at @FrankieLally
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