Dundalk 1 Rosenborg 1
Not for the first time Dundalk will have to save themselves in a Champions League qualifier second leg with Stephen Kenny’s side effectively behind at the half way stage after surrendering a lead here that they had earned thanks to a strong start.
Last season’s performances against FH and BATE and the goals away in the Europa League group games suggest that retrieving things is not beyond them but the pity is that they will not go there with something to defend.
“Overall we were probably the better team,” said Pat McEleney afterwards. “But we’re looking forward to the next game now. It’s only half time. Every team at this level is a good side and will be a different game over there. We have gone and scored away before, but it’s going to be tough.”
Dundalk exceeded any reasonable expectations early on with the hosts taking the game to their opponents in a way that very few Irish sides have even aspired to do down the years. Clearly capable, Rosenborg still looked a little shaken by the intensity of things early on.
Robbie Benson was at the heart of it all with the 25-year-old repeatedly getting his team onto to the front foot with a simple ball then drifting forward into space as the pace quickened and McEleney or Michael Duffy suddenly injected a bit of drive into things.
Two of the three were involved as Dundalk provided an early indication of the threat they could pose but after Dane Massey – another to find his best form here – and McMillan linked up well in the seventh minute, Duffy's shot was well saved by Anders Hansen who stopped the low drive with a trailing foot after having appeared commit himself too early.
It was one of the goalkeeper's better moments as he looked vulnerable more than once under a high ball – something that Benson came close to capitalising on after John Mountney had retrieved an overhit Duffy free kick.
There was nothing, though, that he could have done to prevent the game’s opening goal with McMillan stealing in ahead of two defenders to head home Duffy’s cross from a few metres out. Moments later it seemed set to be two as the locals swept forward after defending a corner much as they had against Bray a couple of weeks back. Benson scored then but this time couldn’t quite pull off what would have been a fairytale finish to Mountney’s cross.
Rosenborg showed that they could pose a threat of their own when moving the ball quickly from back to front and Gary Rogers twice had to make decent saves, the better of them from Nicklas Bendter. But Dundalk had an edge through the first 40 minutes and should have taken their advantage into the second half.
Instead, they conceded in the 44th when Eggen Hedenstad's well weighted free set up a tussle on the edge of the six yard box between Brian Gartland and Tore Regniussen. The Irishman made a desperate attempt to get in ahead of his rival but appeared to turn the ball beyond Rogers himself in the process.
The locals regrouped and went again in the second half but it was Rosenborg who now held the advantage and they looked a good deal more settled as they stubbornly defended it. Stephen Kenny’s men chased things but it was from set pieces rather than play that they now looked more likely to score, with McMillan going closest when he headed a Duffy corner over from six yards.
Their late pressure, they will feel, still might have yielded the goal they wanted, perhaps needed, and Kenny insisted afterwards that having been unfortunate not to win here, his side is good enough to turn things around in Trondheim.
It is Rosenborg, he knows, who have achieved their initial objective though, and they who return home believing they have one foot in the next round.
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Vemmelund (Barrett, 64 mins), Massey; Shields, Benson; Mountney, McEleney, Duffy (Connolly, 72 mins); McMillan (Kilduff, 81 mins).
ROSENBORG: Hansen; Hedenstad, Bjordal, Reginiussen, Skjelvik; Jensen, Konradsen, Vihjalmsson; Hellend (Jevtovic, 42 mins), Bendtner, Midtsjo (de Lanlay, 81 mins).
Referee: R Petrescu (Romania).