Sligo Rovers undone by Molde’s Chima Chukwu
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men take first leg lead back to Norway
Sligo’s Gavin Peers can only watch as Daniel Chima Chukwu of Molde hits the back of the net at the Sportsgrounds. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Sligo Rovers 0 Molde 1: Nobody drifting out of the Showgrounds would have had to look around too long in search of an appropriate metaphor to describe Rovers’ task next Tuesday. Ian Baraclough’s men head to Norway with a mountain to climb.
The Irish champions will have to score, win and, one imagines, avoid conceding again in Molde, something no side has managed to do previously after finding themselves in a similar situation. Naturally they will travel intent on breaking new ground, but it will require a good deal more of them than they proved capable of producing in front of their own supporters.
Ian Baraclough, sure enough, insisted afterwards his players will draw confidence from the way they matched their opponents in the second half tonight and perform more positively in the second leg. And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was quick to endorse that view.
Rovers were certainly better in the second half than they had been in the first but, worryingly for Baraclough, they created little.
Though they had the better of things more or less from the outset, Molde’s initial pressure hadn’t really amounted to much but gradually they began to find their range up front, helped by the number of times poor defending presented them with chances.
Joseph Ndo had been an early culprit and others followed, but the most serious error came courtesy of Evan McMillan whose failure to control the ball might have gone unpunished by less capable opponents.
The Norwegians, though, were quick to pounce on just about everything and even apart from the couple of occasions on which Gary Rogers had come to the rescue with fine saves, there had been a couple of let-offs before McMillan failed to cope with a Magne Simonsen ball and Chima Chukwu did well to beat two defenders before firing perfectly beyond the goalkeeper and into the bottom right hand corner.
It was a fairly cruel blow to suffer three minutes before the break but it would have been a good deal worse for Baraclough’s men had the ball ricocheted in when Aliou Coly blocked down an injury-time clearance by Rogers.
A second at that stage would have virtually killed the tie a quarter of the way in and Rovers sought to make the most of their lifeline.
Against the run of play, they had already had a couple of chances in the first half, the best of them falling to David McMillan, whose low curling shot after cutting in from the right forced a decent save from Orjan Nyland, who then recovered well to catch a header from the striker seconds later.
Things were more even after the break as Sligo chased an equaliser and Molde dug in, happy enough it seemed to hold what they had, but Nyland was barely called upon other than to gather a couple of crosses and shepherd a low Ndo drive safely wide midway through the half.
Molde certainly don’t look unbeatable but, from the stands at least, the grounds for genuine confidence were still difficult to detect.
Sligo Rovers: Rogers; Henderson (Keane, 72 mins), E McMillan, Peers, Davoren (Martin, 78 mins); Ndo; D McMillan (Djilali, 60 mins), Conneely, Lynch, Gaynor; Elding.
Molde: Nyland; Linnes, Toivio, Forren, Simonsen; Ekpo, Berg Hestad; Mostrom (Tripic, 77 mins), Berget (Hovland, 84 mins), Chukwu, Coly (Agnaldo, 62 mins).
Referee: Alexandre Boucaut (Belgium).