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Dublin: 1°C Friday 4 December 2020

Brave Dundalk effort comes to nothing in Molde defeat

The Lilywhites led at half-time, but were beaten 2-1 in their opening Europa League group game.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dundalk 1

FK Molde 2

DUNDALK HAVE BROKEN the mould in returning to the Europa League group stages but tonight they couldn’t break Molde. 

Their promise faded with the late-autumn sky above Tallaght this evening, losing their half-time lead in defeat to the Norwegian champions.

The Irish side were the better side in the first half’s evening twilight, taking the lead through a now-trademark Sean Murray header, but as the sky churned through shades of blue to pitiless black in the early stages of the second half, Dundalk were lost amid the whirr and blur of Molde’s sharpened attacking play. 

The goals came in the space of 11 minutes, first through a deflected Etzaz Hussain volley and then an Ohi Omoijuanfo penalty. Dundalk’s first-half dominance and the tenacity off their late rally leaves them with the sinking feeling of deserving more than nothing from this group opener.

Dundalk were limited by their own nerves in the play-off but they were without fear in this game, passing with tempo through an otherwise tepid opening quarter. 

John Mountney was preferred to Stefan Colovic and Daniel Kelly on the right for Dundalk, which initially looked a conservative selection by Giovagnoli to deal with the attacking threat of Molde left-back, Kristoffer Haugen. 

Without the necessary Uefa Pro Licence, Giovagnoli wasn’t allowed to stand in the technical area, and so stood halfway up the stand, with analyst Shane Keegan in slacks and shoes and barking orders on the touchline. 

The team selection’s was Giovagnoli’s, and although it was laced with his natural pragmatism, it wasn’t without intent and Dundalk grew emboldened after Molde’s tepid opening quarter.

They had the ball in the net midway through the first half after Molde made a hames of dealing with a Michael Duffy cross, but Pat Hoban was adjudged t0 have shoved defender Bjornbak out of his way in heading the ball into an empty net. It seemed harsh, though replays showed the loitering Murray impede goalkeeper Andres Linde. 

No matter. 

Dundalk soon had the lead. Haugen was bamboozled by a clever one-two between Gannon and Mountney and the latter’s cross was delicious, landing right on Sean Murray’s forehead, who steered the the ball beyond Linde. 

It was Murray’s third headed goal 0f the European campaign so far, and follows his opening the scoring in the play-off. 

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filippo-giovagnoli Giovagnoli coaches from the stand. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Fireworks were heard in the distance during the half-time break, though it may have been the rocket Erling Moe launched in the dressing room. Molde upped the ante considerably, with Dundalk left firmly in the business of surviving. 

Gary Rogers clawed away a point-blank header, while his throaty roars of “get up” were pretty forlorn as Dundalk sagged deep into their own box, hemmed in by blue shirts.

The equaliser came just after the hour mark. Pedersen’s cross from the right was volleyed by Etzaz Hussain in the penalty area, and the ball was deflected beyond Rogers. Dundalk can lament their misfortune in seeing the ball cannon off Gannon, but Pedersen had too much space to cross and Hussain too much to shoot. 

With the hectic pace of Molde’s passing and movement dizzying Dundalk, they introduced Patrick McEleney to try and stem the flow, but it was a Molde substitute who made a instant impact. In his first involvement, Erling Knudtzon skated in the penalty area and was caught by Gannon. Ohi Omoijuanfo rifled the penalty to Rogers’ bottom-right, just beyond the ‘keeper’s grasp. 

Giovagnoli went for broke, a triple sub that saw Dundalk shuffle to a 3-5-2 and sent David McMillan up front alongside Hoban. Colovic was soon introduced for Duffy. 

The change in shape allowed Dundalk throw more bodies forward and the generous six added minutes saw Dundalk barrage the Molde penalty area with shots and crosses, but the visitors held firm. 

Their roars at full-time were perhaps more out of relief than jubilation, while the Dundalk players slumped to the ground. It doesn’t get any easier from here: next up, Arsenal away.  

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (David McMillan, 76′), Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Darragh Leahy (Cameron Dummigan, 76′); Chris Shields (captain), Sean Murray (Andy Boyle, 76′), Greg Sloggett (Patrick McEleney, 63′); John Mountney, Pat Hoban, Michael Duffy (Stefan Colovic, 79′)

Molde: Andreas Linde; Marcus Pedersen, Martin Bjornbak, Stian Gregersen, Kristoffer Haugen; Fredrik Aursnes, Magnus Wolff Eikrem (captain, Martin Ellingsen, 82′), Etzaz Hussain; Eirik Hestad, Ohi Omoijuanfo (Ola Brynhildsen, 90′), Mathis Boly (Erling Knudtzon, 69′)

Referee: Petri Viljanen (Finland)

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from Tallaght Stadium

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