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More woe for Shamrock Rovers in Europe

The Hoops went down to a far superior Molde side in the Europa Conference League tonight.

Molde's Ola Brynhildse celebrates scoring his side's first goal with Magnus Grødem.
Molde's Ola Brynhildse celebrates scoring his side's first goal with Magnus Grødem.
Image: NTB/INPHO

Molde 3

Shamrock Rovers 0

SHAMROCK ROVERS’ hopes of a progression in the Europa Conference League suffered a significant blow, as they were beaten 3-0 by Molde in Norway tonight.

It was a game that the Irish side seldom looked like winning, with the hosts in the ascendancy from the outset.

Ola Brynhildsen’s brace and a Etzaz Hussain goal saw the hosts claim a comfortable win with the game effectively over as a contest just before the hour mark.

The Irish side did not register a shot on target over the 90 minutes, and managed just two attempts overall compared to 26 for the Norwegian league leaders in this one-sided contest.

Seemingly with an eye on the weekend’s Premier Division game against Shelbourne, Stephen Bradley fielded an understrength team, with teenagers Justin Ferizaj and Aidomo Emakhu handed starts while the likes of Jack Byrne, Rory Gaffney and Dylan Watts had to be content with a place on the bench.

Rovers were 2-0 down after 18 minutes of their last European tie in Gent and perhaps with that bad night in mind, they were conspicuously conservative in their approach this evening.

The reigning Premier Division champions rarely attempted to play out from the back and put plenty of bodies behind the ball with what was a 4-5-1 formation at times that saw Emakhu as the lone striker with Aaron Greene on the right.

Particularly given the extra emphasis on not conceding, Bradley will be disappointed that his side’s resistance was broken after only 10 minutes.

Emil Breivik’s hopeful ball into the box was not dealt with by the Rovers defence leading to a goalmouth scramble and it eventually broke kindly for Brynhildsen, who took full advantage with a clinical first-time finish for his third goal in Europe this season.

With Rovers offering minimal threat going forward, Molde continued to dominate thereafter.

Christian Eriksen and Kristoffer Haugen both went close before the break — the only positive for the Irish side at the half-time whistle was that there was only one goal in it.

Yet the second half continued in a similar pattern and Erling Moe’s side soon made their superiority count once more.

Two Rovers played failed to clear a low cross, it then fell to Eriksen, whose powerful effort came off the crossbar, but Brynhildsen was sharp again as he beat Ronan Finn to the rebound and headed into the empty net.

Any lingering hope of an unlikely Rovers comeback was killed off altogether in the 58th minute, as Hussain got Molde’s third in slightly fortuitous circumstances.

Martin Linnes’ attempted cross took a deflection before coming back off the crossbar and the 29-year-old midfielder was on hand to fire home much to the delight of the sparse home crowd.

Rovers did introduce the likes of Watts, Neil Farrugia, Graham Burke and Roberto Lopes — back available after a long-term knee ligament injury — in the second half, but with the game all but over, it made little difference.

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In fact, it was Molde who looked the more likely to add further gloss on the scoreline, as a powerful Hussain shot from the edge of the area was well saved by Alan Mannus.

The result means Rovers’ chances of progression from the group stages are remote at best, having registered just one point and zero goals from three matches.

The picture will be clearer once tonight’s late match between Djurgardens and Gent ends, but Bradley’s side will likely need to get something from all three of their remaining fixtures to maintain any hope of reaching the next round.

Molde: Karlstrom, Breivik, Haugan, Risa, Lovik, Linnes (Bolly 71), Mannsverk (Eikrem 71), Hussain, Grodem (Kaasa 71), Brynhildsen, Eriksen.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Hoare, Cleary, Grace, Finn (Lopes 68), Lyons, Kavanagh (Burke 79), O’Neill, Ferizaj (Farrugia 68), Greene (Watts 79), Emakhu (Gaffney 55).

 

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Paul Fennessy

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