Rosenborg win on aggregate as Sligo run out of steam
Sligo Rovers 1 Rosenborg BK 3 (Rosenborg win 4-3 on agg)
Rosenborg deservedly advanced to the third round of the Europa League on a night when Sligo surrendered a two-goal lead and ultimately ran out of steam.
Leading 2-1 heading into the second leg, Sligo dared to dream when Danny North's 14th-minute goal put them 3-1 ahead on aggregate before their Norwegian opponents showed the necessary resilience to recover from a mini-crisis and manufacture an impressive comeback.
Two goals from Mike Jensen and another from Pal Andre Helland gave Rosenborg victory as a second successive European night ended anti-climactically for Ireland's representatives.
Yet this time there was no humiliation, no defensive meltdown as Sligo acquitted themselves admirably, but ultimately were beaten by a fitter, technically superior side whose greater composure in front of goal proved decisive.
Had Sligo taken their chances when the game was in the melting pot, then who knows if an upset could have followed? However, they didn't, the turning point coming early in the second half when North poked a shot narrowly wide when it seemed easier to score.
At a time when they were gasping for air, a goal then could have provided oxygen to their lungs. But it didn't come and nine minutes later Jensen netted his second – Rosenborg's third – and that was that.
With the pressure lifted, the Norwegians schooled Sligo in the art of closing the deal out, slowing the tempo to suit their needs as they ran down the clock to secure the win.
Yet it was a victory that earlier in the evening didn't look like arriving.
Then it was Sligo who were in control, setting a tempo that Rosenborg struggled to cope with, but which significantly, they ultimately could not sustain.
Yet for those opening 15 minutes they were sensational, energised by the atmosphere the crowd was generating, intent on creating history.
Certainly they were creating chances – two of them arriving within the first four minutes – North getting the first of them when he was on the end of John Russell's effort to poke a shot to the right of the Rosenborg goalkeeper Alexander Hansen, who reacted sharply, to push the ball around the post.
Their confidence high, they continued to press, bossing possession in midfield and pinning the Norwegians deep into their own half. The fourth minute brought another opening, this one created by David Cawley, which ended with Evan McMillan acrobatically volleying high and wide.
Unable to live with the pace being set, Rosenborg abandoned any attacking pretensions they may have had and repositioned their midfield deep in their own half.
But this fire-fighting strategy didn't work because with 14 minutes gone, Sligo took the lead, North getting on the end of Alan Keane's cross from the right to sidefoot the ball home from six yards and put Sligo 1-0 up on the night – 3-1 ahead on aggregate.
There and then an improbable victory seemed likely.
But within three minutes reality returned when Ross Gaynor's mistake provided Helland with an opportunity he wouldn't miss as he hammered his shot high beyond Gary Rogers' reach to make it 3-2 on aggregate.
The tide had turned. Until then Kieran Djilali had been winning his personal battle with Tobias Mickelsen but mid-way through the half both his, and Rovers', energy levels slowed down.
It was a different type of cup tie, now. Rovers were holding on and while they got through to half-time without further trouble, the second half became Rosenborg's to control.
Within three minutes of the restart, they had the lead on the night, Mikkel Diseruid's cross finding Jensen who made no mistake.
Seven minutes later, North had his opportunity to write his name into Rovers folklore. He didn't take it but Jensen did provide the finish when offered the chance to score nine minutes later.
"We lost to a very good team," said John Coleman, the Rovers manager. No one could argue with that.
Sligo Rovers – Rogers; Keane, McMillan, Spillane, Gaynor (Maguire 70); Conneely, Cawley, Russell, O'Conor (Keating 70), Djilali (Ledwith 85); North
Rosenborg BK – Hansen; Mickelsen, Reginiussen, Strandberg, Dorsin; Riski, Selnaes, Jensen; Helland (Diseruid 26), Soderlund (Sorloth 80), Pedersen
Ref – E Lambrechts (Belgium)