Wednesday 20 September 2017

Sligo boss defiant as Solskjaer's men seize initiative

Sligo Rovers 0 Molde FK 1

Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges the crowd after his team’s win in Sligo
Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges the crowd after his team’s win in Sligo
Sligo’s Anthony Elding battles with Joona Toivio
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

DOWN, but not out. History is against Sligo Rovers after this reverse, but Ian Baraclough responded defiantly when he was informed that no Irish side have ever come from behind to qualify after losing the first leg of a European Cup/Champions League tie at home.

DOWN, but not out. History is against Sligo Rovers after this reverse, but Ian Baraclough responded defiantly when he was informed that no Irish side have ever come from behind to qualify after losing the first leg of a European Cup/Champions League tie at home.

"Why not?" said the Englishman. "Of course we can. We can take the first goal next Tuesday. My players are good enough to play at this level, to get an away goal, to rewrite history. Make no mistake about it."

The confident demeanour of his opposite number, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, suggested that the Norwegians feel they can finish the job next Tuesday. Indeed, the ex-Manchester United striker's main frustration leaving The Showgrounds was that they failed to score more than once, before the interval in this encounter. "We're in the driving seat and we should have been more so," he said.

At that point, this tie looked to be headed one way, yet an improved second-half display from the natives inspired Baraclough's optimism.

Nervousness

"I think there was an edginess, a nervousness at first that is understandable. Once we started to get the ball down and move it quicker, we started to create more chances," he said. "The tie is still in the balance. It's important we came away with something to play for and we can be that little bit more adventurous next week."

Their approach from the outset was certainly bereft of real imagination. On the eve of the game, skipper Gavin Peers had suggested that a scoreless draw would be a satisfactory outcome and the League of Ireland champions set out like a team which looked to have containment in mind with Baraclough opting for a 4-1-4-1 with a defensive tint.

Ross Gaynor, better known as a left-back these days, was deployed on the left-wing in front of Iarflaith Davoren, while the physicality of Dave McMillan was utilised on the right. David Cawley missed out in midfield with Seamus Conneely favoured and Anthony Elding cast as the lone frontman.

Baraclough's men required calm heads and, unfortunately, lacked that attribute too often in the early exchanges with nervy moments in possession inviting Molde to nab a precious away goal; Joseph Ndo kicked it off with an error that almost sent the lively Senegalese attacker Aliou Coly through.

Frantic covering averted the danger but that was too frequent a theme of the opening 45 with the Bit O'Red scrambling to undo their own bad work. Midfielder Lee Lynch was involved in some promising moments going forward but they were rare; the only serious chance of note before the interval fell to McMillan who cut in from the right and tested Orjan Nyland with a stinging left-footer.

As the half progressed, however, home keeper Gary Rogers became the central Sligo figure, denying Coly and then Daniel Chima Chukwu in a period where Baraclough's rearguard were tripping over themselves as Molde's front four rotated. "It was important for us to go all out and get a goal," said Solskjaer.

Evan McMillan was suffering and there was a major let-off when Chukwu capitalised on his error and squared for Jo Inge Berget who missed a sitter.

The local fortune had a shelf-life and, three minutes before the interval, Molde struck. Chukwu collected a clumsy clearance from McMillan, jinked inside the off-balance Peers and found the bottom corner with a right-footed strike.

With a precious away goal in the bag, Molde didn't exactly emerge with real purpose but then Rovers also managed to show a little more composure. They worked some crossing positions that came to nothing before Ndo's daisy cutter that trickled wide.

Baraclough refreshed his right side with Kieran Djilali summoned for Dave McMillan and Alan Keane taking his regular full-back berth from Jeff Henderson. Djilali provided a spark, and teed up an opportunity for Lynch that was blocked. The blue shirts were temporarily uncomfortable, with panicked clearances and an animated Solskjaer on the sideline indicating their concern. "We weren't moving our feet quick enough defensively," he sighed.

With 10 minutes to go, a fine chance to restore parity was squandered with Elding's flick met with a wild swipe by Djilali much to the dismay of the packed Volkswagen Stand behind Nyland's net. Keane threatened afterwards with a shot that was blocked in a crowded area, but Solskjaer made a sub to slow the tempo and, in the end, his side regained their earlier control for the dying stages with the three minutes of injury-time passing by without incident. "I can't remember our 'keeper making a save," said Solskjaer.

He will expect to complete the job on home turf. Baraclough, who hinted at a overhaul of his starting 11, is aiming to tear up that script.

Sligo Rovers – Rogers, Henderson (Keane 72), Peers, E McMillan, Davoren (Martin 78); Ndo; D McMillan (Djilali 59), Lynch, Conneely, Gaynor; Elding.

Molde FK – Nyland, Linnes, Toivio, Forren, Simonsen; Mostrom (Tripic 76), Berg Hestad, Ekpo, Chukwu; Coly (Agnaldo 62), Berget (Hovland 83).

Ref – A Boucaut (Belgium).

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