Sligo Rovers 1 Rosenborg 3
Rosenborg win 4-3 on aggregate
It was a better game and much more of a contest than Legia got against St Patrick's Athletic in Tallaght on Wednesday night. It was, in its way, much more of a disappointment Sligo Rovers didn't "forget to play" as the St Patrick's manager Liam Buckley had suggested his players had.
Sligo led on the night and could have scored more. Ultimately, though, they were made to pay for their mistakes by a Rosenborg team with the experience and expertise to grab their chances.
“We’ve missed a glorious opportunity, there’s no doubt about it,” admitted manager John Coleman afterwards. “I have to pay tribute to Rosenborg because they’ve come here under immense pressure, and they should be beating Sligo, but on the evidence of tonight and last week you wouldn’t have known which was the bigger side.”
The Rovers boss went on to admit, though, that his own side “didn’t have quite enough” at critical moments in attack, their set-pieces had been “atrocious” and that he was bitterly disappointed with the way they had conceded the three goals.
At heart then, he seemed to know why Rosenborg looked like the bigger, better side on the night; they did what they had to do.
For such a finely-balanced tie, the first half was amazingly open with both teams throwing themselves into attack whenever the opportunity arose.
Sligo were first off the mark, threatening before their opponents and scoring before them too but the Norwegians bounced back every time and many of their own attacks followed swiftly on from moves in which the locals had committed themselves heavily to the pursuit of a greater advantage. It was, in the end, the way the visitors won the game.
When the locals pushed forward, they generally did well, passing nicely, covering ground quickly and getting bodies forward from every area in support of the attack.
A little too often their decision-making or final ball around the edge of the area was poor but they still went close on a couple of occasions when another goal would have put them firmly in the driving seat, most notably with a David Cawley shot just before the break which Alexander Hansen did well to get across to.
Rovers ' goal came just 13 minutes in when John Russell had done well to win the ball in midfield then kick off a passing move that involved both Paul O'Conor and Séamus Conneely before Alan Keane crossed low from the right, David Cawley got a touch and Danny North fired home from close range at the far post.
Had they kept the lead a little longer the pressure might really have started to tell on the visitors but it took just three minutes for Rosenborg to draw level on the night with a Moretn Gamst Pedersen cross from the left getting beyond both Ross Gaynor and Evan McMillan to reach Pal Andre Helland who took a touch before powering the ball into the top right corner. "The goal gave them life," observed a rueful Russell afterwards.
Pedersen, long of Blackburn Rovers, was his side’s key player, at least until Mix Diskerud came on for the injured Helland. From then on the pair chipped in pretty evenly as the Norwegians started to get on top.
Rovers worked hard to keep possession and make the most of it but their opponents were tireless, repeatedly making it hard for them even to play their way out of the first third of the pitch.
The Norwegians were consistently quick to counterattack too, and both of Mike Jensen’s second-half goals – the first after 49 minutes, the second after 65 – came courtesy of their determination to power forward after winning possession deep inside their own half; that and Sligo’s simple inability to stop them in their stride once they’d hit it.
Between the goals, North had passed up a great chance to put the hosts 2-1 up on the night but he curled the ball wide after having been sent clear by Russell. After the goals, Rovers found themselves really chasing things but they still created chances.
Ruairi Keating, for a start, should have had a penalty when he was clearly bundled over by Tobias Mikkelsen under a lofted Seán Magure ball while North was guilty of poor judgment when he tried to control a high ball to the far post instead of leaving it for Cawley who was arriving behind him.
Evan McMillan then went close twice as the seconds slipped by and the chase became more desperate but Rovers couldn’t quite play themselves back into things; something they’ll have to do now in the league, and from an equally unpromising position, if they are to bring European football back to the Showgrounds next season.
SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers; Keane, McMillan, Spillane, Gaynor (Maguire, 71 mins); Conneely, Cawley; O’Conor (Keating, 71 mins), Russell, Djilali (Ledwith, 85 mins); North. ROSENBORG: Hansen; Mikkelsen, Strandberg, Reginiussen, Dorsin; Jensen, Riski, Selnaes; Helland (Diskerud, 27 mins), Soderlund (Sorloth, 79 mins), Pedersen. Referee: E Lambrechts (Belgium).