Dundalk’s opening to their Europa League campaign ended in disappointment following defeat to Norwegian side Molde in Tallaght.
The current SSE Airtricity League champions got off to the perfect start with a goal of excellent quality from Sean Murray but Molde came out in the second half with a different vigour and class to overcame the home side. In truth, despite a late rally, Dundalk would have taken a point from this game had they had not succumbed to increased pressure from the Norwegian side in the second half. While Dundalk has European experience in abundance in the side, Molde showed true class in grinding out a result, Dundalk’s heavy domestic fixture congestion does not help the cause at present. Sean Murray marked his 30th Dundalk start tonight and 10th European appearance for the club with his third goal in a row in Europe – all of which have been scored from free play and a header.
The home side took the game to the Scandinavian side with John Mountney who in the eyes of some is Dundalk’s ‘Mr Realible’ in Europe drilled a low free-kick that went wide midway through the first half. Dundalk continued to pressed and it looked as if the home side had taken the lead when Pat Hoban nodded home from close range at the back post following an excellent cross into the area, however, it was ruled out for a foul on Martin Bjørnbak.
Molde responded in fashion and took the game to Dundalk and following a corner the ball eventually fell to Marcus Holmgren Pedersen whose long-range effort caused Rogers some trouble at his far post. This wouldn’t be the first time that Pedersen would set his sights on the Dundalk goal, the midfielder was a target man for second ball attempts for Molde. Moments later the game would turn on his head.
Following some excellent passing play in the build-up, the link-up play fell to John Mountney on the right who sent the ball into the area, Sean Murray ghosted in the area evading his marker and did brilliantly to head the ball past Linde.
The former Watford midfielder was very goal-shy it had been 560 days he hadn’t found the net and since finding the net against Sheriff Tiraspol last month, Murray now scored four priceless goals in recent weeks.
Once again, Marcus Holmgren Pedersen with another long-range effort just before half time but this effort failed to worry Rogers as it went high into the south stand.
Molde went up the gear and used their increasing presence to smother Dundalk’s midfield to heighten pressure on Dundalk’s defence. While Dundalk withheld the pressure it was in the sixth second minute Etzaz Hussain volleyed home an excellent effort with calmness with after Pedersen’s cross came in from the right. He may not have scored but Pedersen made sure he made an impact on the game. The game was turned on its head ten minutes later when Sean Gannon was deemed to have felled Knudtzon in the area and he made a run on goal and referee Petri Viljanen made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Despite going the right way Ohi Omoijuanfo fired the ball past Rogers to give Molde the lead.
The changes made to Dundalk’s line up added fresh legs and impetus to Dundalk’s attack and it looked as if the late rally made by the side would pay off as Dundalk laid siege in search for an equaliser and set up late drama in Tallaght. It looked as if Dummigan was about to strike a late long-range effort only for it to be blocked on route to goal.
In the six previous Europa League group games, Dundalk didn’t lose a game by more than a one-goal margin, the same again happened tonight. There is a disappointment but plenty to play for and to take heart going forward.
Just the small matter of Arsenal next week in London.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (David McMillan 76), Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Darragh Leahy (Cameron Dummigan 76); Sean Murray (Andy Boyle 76), Chris Shields; John Mountney, Greg Sloggett (Patrick McEleney 61), Michael Duffy (Stefan Colovic 79); Patrick Hoban.
Substitutes not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Sean Hoare, Jordan Flores, Jamie Wynne, Daniel Kelly.
Sent off: None.
MOLDE FK: Andreas Linde; Marcus Holmgren Pedersen, Martin Bjornbak, Stian Gregersen, Kristoffer Haugen; Fredrik Aursnes, Magnus Wolff Eikrem (capt) (Martin Ellingsen 82), Etzaz Hussain; Eirik Hestad, Ohi Omoijuanfo, Mathis Bolly (Erling Knudtzon 69).
Substitutes not used: Alexandro Craninx (GK), Mathias Ranmark (GK), Birk Risa, Sheriff Sinyan, Matthias Mostrom, Tobias Christensen, Ola Brynhildsen, Eirki Ulland Andersen.
Booked: Gregersen (20)
Sent off: None.
Referee: Petri Viljanen
By Ciarán Callan