Sport League of Ireland

Tuesday 11 December 2018

City's Euro hopes hang by a thread after painful loss

Cork City 0 Rosenborg 2

Cork City players react to a missed chance at Turner’s Cross last night. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cork City players react to a missed chance at Turner’s Cross last night. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The end is nigh for the League of Ireland's European year after a deflating evening at Turner's Cross.

When Rosenborg take on Irish sides they tend to prevail, but the Cork camp felt they could make life uncomfortable for the Norwegian champions in this Europa League third-round qualifier.

Shane Griffin of Cork City in action against Birger Meling of Rosenborg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Griffin of Cork City in action against Birger Meling of Rosenborg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But their caretaker boss Rini Coolen will not be losing too much sleep ahead of next week's decider in Trondheim, with a two-goal advantage.

Cork had enough of the ball in general play to consider this a missed opportunity. However, the suspicion lingered that Rosenborg always just had a little bit more in the tank.

The visitors were hanging on a small bit in the dying stages as Cork forced a series of corners - the final count reached 11 - yet they were efficient when it came to the basics.

Ireland's representatives have failed in this regard in 2018 and paid the penalty.

Karl Sheppard of Cork City in action against Vegar Hedenstad of Rosenborg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Karl Sheppard of Cork City in action against Vegar Hedenstad of Rosenborg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Downbeat

Cork boss John Caulfield was downbeat afterwards as he reflected on the league's place in the European pecking order.

"Our league hasn't changed in 40 years," he said, "You might get a purple patch when you get one great team but the difficulty is keeping hold of the players.

"You can't even give the wages that are available in League Two. And you look at the leagues that we used to be stronger then - like the old Russian countries - which are investing and getting better. We don't have an industry here and we'll be the same in ten to twenty years or even further down the pecking order if we don't step up and invest in our league.

"You wonder will it happen because if you're not going to invest properly from the top and set standards, you're not going to progress in Europe."

Cork - the last team standing - were ultimately floored by a first-half brace from Jonathan Levi that was at odds with the flow of the game at that juncture.

Rosenborg effectively succeeded in lulling the hosts into a false sense of security, although they were casual at times in their own half, slow to track the runs of Cork players and the hosts had opportunities to go ahead when the game was scoreless.

With Karl Sheppard cutting in from the left and Barry McNamee meandering in from the right, they found space around the edge of the Norwegians' penalty area. McNamee was given two shooting opportunities that were cleared away in a promising opening.

Rosenborg were happy enough to take some risks but when they ventured into opposition territory they really got to work.

The head-to-head between Damien Delaney and Nicklas Bendtner brought together two players that have tasted life at the highest level.

But the key battle turned out to be the clash between 22-year-old Swede Levi and City left-back Shane Griffin.

That cost the Leesiders as they fell behind from Rosenborg's second serious advance into opposition territory. Levi ghosted past Griffin before sending in a cross-shot that made its way through the legs of Mark McNulty.

If there was more than a hint of fortune about that effort, the second goal illustrated the difference in attacking quality between the sides.

A rapid-fire passing combination culminated in Levi executing a one-two with skipper Mike Jensen and sending a thunderbolt past McNulty with Cork too slow to react.

This was a setback that added urgency to Cork's half-time teamtalk and Caulfield took action by introducing the talented if slightly enigmatic Kieran Sadlier for McNamee.

The substitute was prominent but the atmosphere fell slightly flat for a period, with white shirts under no pressure to show too much ambition.

But Sadlier is a capable dead-ball player and his free from distance did give Hansen work to do as the game entered the final quarter. Sheppard was none too pleased when he was replaced by Ronan Coughlan as Cork huffed and puffed.

Energy

Captain Conor McCormack had already made way for Gearoid Morrissey in an attempt to inject some energy.

But the atmosphere was flat. Cork were spending periods in the Rosenborg half, but they were kept at arm's length.

There was a rally as the final whistle approached, with Delaney sent forward to try and get his head on hopeful crosses into the box. Sadlier had shots blocked away to safety.

Real subtlety was lacking. Rosenborg were smarter when it came to finding gaps and Jensen squandered a clearcut opportunity to wrap the tie up. Bendtner also broke clear to curl another effort wide of the post.

Rosenborg could afford to waste chances. Cork, whose run of European games without a goal now extends to five, just didn't create enough.

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