Tuesday 23 January 2018

Brave Sligo's Champions League dreams end in Norway

Molde FK 2 Sligo Rovers 0 (Molde win 3-0 on aggregate)

David McMillian, Sligo Rovers, reacts after a missed opportunity
David McMillian, Sligo Rovers, reacts after a missed opportunity
Joseph Ndo, Sligo Rovers, in action against Etzaz Hussain, Molde FK. UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round, Second Leg

Aidan Fitzmaurice in Molde

THREE quarters of Ireland’s entrants in European competition this season have exited at the first hurdle as Sligo Rovers’ Champions League dream ended here in Norway.

Sligo needed to rewrite history and come up with an away win in Europe for the first time ever, but goals from Martin Linnes (5 minutes) and substitute Aliou Coly (77 minutes) meant that for the eighth time in eight attempts, an Irish side failed to win on Norwegian soil, and while Sligo did cause some stress to the home side with a positive spell early in the second half, Molde ran out comfortable winners in the end.

Molde now advance to the third qualifying round of the Champions League and a likely date with Legia Warsaw while Sligo lick their wounds and hope that Derry City, in action against Trabzonspor in the Europa League on Thursday night, can somehow advance and avoid a complete set of first-hurdle defeats for Irish sides this summer.

Managed by Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and with resources which dwarf the budget of Sligo, Molde have serious ambitions of making the group stages of the Champions League and they showed their class with a comfortable win in the sun.

Sligo had barely settled into their surroundings when Linnes advanced from his full back slot and found time to fire a shot past Sligo keeper Gary Rogers on five minutes to give Molde a 1-0 lead on the night, 2-0 on aggregate.

To their credit Sligo did try to find a response and after nine minutes mounted the first in a series of assaults on the Molde goal, Sligo earning four corner kicks in a two-minute spell as Kieran Djulali and David McMillan both had efforts on target, while David McMillan was close with a header on 12 minutes.

But the suspicion was that Molde always had more in the tank and that was proved true by their half-time substitutions, as sub Aliou Coly sprinted into space on 77 minutes to link up with Nigerian Daniel Chima Chuwku and Coly fired an unstoppable shot past Rogers in the Sligo goal, and just before that Rogers had done well to deny Emmanuel Ekpo with a first-class save.

Sligo had already thrown on strikers Raff Cretaro and Danny North in a bid to get something from the game but a canny Molde side retained a vice-like grip on the game, leaving the Sligo forwards feeding off scraps and they were unable to threaten the Molde goal, though North should have done better when he was left one-on-one with the keeper in injury time.

The win allows Molde march on in Europe while Sligo get back to the business of retaining their league title with a vital game at home to Shamrock Rovers on Saturday.

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