By Paul-Daniel Zaharia
FC Steaua Bucuresti produced a determined performance to deny Shelbourne FC a second successive appearance in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
After a goalless first leg in Dublin, Shelbourne had hopes of matching the run of 2004/05 that ended with a creditable performance against RC Deportivo La Coruña. But Steaua, the 1986 European champions, made the most of their chances to earn a tie with Rosenborg BK.
The game began in turbulent fashion, and referee Claude Colombo was forced to take action in the fifth minute when he ruled that Nicolae Dica of Steaua and Shelbourne's Dave Rogers had both thrown punches, and sent the pair off. But after this early skirmish, matters calmed down.
On 13 minutes Jason Byrne headed a corner on target, but Steaua goalkeeper Vasili Khomutovski produced an acrobatic save to turn the effort on to the post, and the home defence cleared. Five minutes later Steaua opened the scoring, Florin Lovin finding Banel Nicolita with a superb long pass and the 20-year-old midfielder chipping Dean Delaney.
Now Steaua were dominant, and nine minutes later - having created several other chances - doubled the lead. Mihai Nesu's low cross caught out Dave Crawley, who diverted the ball to Constantin Iacob. The Steaua player gratefully tapped into an open goal.
In the 38th minute Shelbourne gave themselves hope when Byrne did score with a header, after another corner. The away team rallied, but not long after the hour Delaney misjudged a long ball and substitute Laurentiu Dinita made it 3-1.
The fate of the match was now all but decided, especially after Glen Crowe was unable to profit from a 74th-minute Khomutovski slip. And although Dinita received a second yellow card in injury time - his first for removing his shirt after scoring - there was still time for the nine men to win a penalty, and another substitute, Daniel Oprita, converted.