Date: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25, 2011
The result means that Rovers will now become the first Irish men's side (Peamount United having recently reached the last 32 of the Women's Champions League) ever to play in the group stages of a European competition, something which Michael O’Neill, his staff, players and indeed fans of the club will be extremely proud of.
It could have been a whole different story on the night, with the hosts taking the lead on 35 minutes. Vladimir Volkov found himself unmarked in the Rovers penalty area and did well to head the ball beyond Ryan Thompson to give Partizan the advantage in the tie.
At that stage in proceedings, Rovers were hanging on and were desperately waiting for the sound of the half-time whistle and thankfully for them, it did arrive and so they went in 1-0 down at the break, 2-1 down on aggregate.
The second half began much like the second half in Tallaght Stadium for the 1st leg, with Partizan leading 1-0 and suddenly Rovers looking like a different side. The men in green and white came out and controlled the game. They looked more comfortable on the ball and began passing it on the ground, which saw them on the attack a lot more.
They got their opening goal of the night just before the hour mark through an unlikely source. Pat Sullivan, who performed so well at right-back on the night, scored an absolute screamer from all of 25-yards after the ball came to him on the volley from a Partizan clearance. The goal rattled the home side and as was to be expected, the hosts attacked from that moment on.
Stefan Babovic, who came on for Partizan just before the goal for Rovers, was a constant threat for the remainder of the game. He was both tough in the tackle and also extremely comfortable on the ball and his effort on 75 minutes drifted just wide of Thompson’s left-hand post in the Rovers goal.
The Hoops managed to hold out for the rest of the 90 minutes and as a result, the game went to extra-time. By this stage, the Rovers players looked completely exhausted, and Gary Twigg was taken off with 99 minutes on the clock looking in desperate need of a good rest. He was replaced by Ciaran Kilduff, who played a huge hand in the winning goal for the visitors.
The former UCD man got away from his marker on the left and got a shot in, which the Partizan keeper Radisa Ilic saved. However, he could only parry it into the path of Karl Sheppard who flicked the ball away from the on-rushing keeper and Sheppard duly went down under the challenge from Ilic’s outstretched arms. The referee pointed to the spot and Stephen O’Donnell made no mistake from 12-yards to send the travelling Rovers fans wild.
And that was that. There was simply no way back for Partizan, who, as a result of the O’Donnell goal needed to net twice in the space of five minutes to have a chance of progressing. Through utter frustration, Medo Kamara received his marching orders for a second bookable offence towards the end. The Rovers players were visibly over the moon with their efforts at the final whistle and they can now sit and watch as their name will be drawn out of the hat in the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.
Partizan Belgrade: R Ilic; A.Rankovic, N.Rnic, I.Ivanov, V.Volkov; N.Tomic, Z.Vukic (S.Babovic 58’), M.Kamara, S.Ilic; E Pacheco (L.Markovic 85’), V.Jovancic.
Subs not used: V.Stankovic, M.Smiljanic, N.Petrovic, N.Ninkovic, N.Aksentijevic.
Bookings: M.Kamara (46), V.Volkov (60), S.Babovic (65).
Red cards: M.Kamara (118).
Shamrock Rovers: Ryan Thompson; Dan Murray, Craig Sives, Enda Stevens, Pat Sullivan; Billy Dennehy (Karl Sheppard, 45), Ronan Finn, Gary McCabe (Stephen O’Donnell, 68), Stephen Rice, Chris Turner; Gary Twigg (Ciaran Kilduff, 102).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Pat Flynn, Karl Moore, Gary O’Neill.
Bookings: Twigg (61), Stevens (64), Sullivan (90), Rice (105), Sheppard (107), O’Donnell (113).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Pat Sullivan.