By Aidan Fitzmaurice at Lansdowne Road
Two late goals from substitute Glen Fitzpatrick gave Shelbourne FC hope of continuing their European run as the home side came from 2-0 down to earn a draw against Lille OSC.
It was not a great night off the field for the Irish champions as poor weather in Dublin contributed to a small attendance, with only 7,436 fans turning up at Lansdowne Road, three times the average home crowd for Shelbourne but a significant drop on the 24,000 who came to see them in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round against RC Deportivo La Coruña, when they drew 0-0 at home before losing 3-0 in the return.
Shelbourne had not conceded a goal in three home games in their historic Champions League run against opposition from Iceland, Croatia and Spain, but they let in two first-half goals against the French visitors tonight. Forward Mathieu Bodmer put Lille in front on 20 minutes with a shot from long range, which deceived his marker David Crawley and goalkeeper Steve Williams.
The away side then doubled their lead seconds before the half-time break through Christophe Landrin. Shelbourne goalkeeper Williams had done well to save a shot from Matt Moussilou from close range, but Landrin was first to react and he seemingly put the UEFA Intertoto Cup winners on course for the group stage as he smashed the rebound past Williams.
Prior to Landrin's strike, a disappointing Shelbourne had spurned a couple of chances of their own through Jason Byrne. First he fired in a weak shot on 32 minutes after being set up by Ollie Cahill, and then on 43 minutes he got a header on target from a David Crawley cross, but Lille goalkeeper Tony Sylva got a touch and put Byrne's header out for a corner.
Irish international Byrne had even more chances after the break, and he was again notably denied by Sylva on 78 minutes, but ten minutes from the end Fitzpatrick, on as a sub for Thomas Morgan, got on the end of a Byrne cross and headed past Sylva. And on 83 minutes Fitzpatrick drew Shelbourne level with the fourth European goal of his career, another header but this time defender Jamie Harris was the provider as he touched on a Crawley free-kick.