Dundalk’s Europa League campaign will now more than likely end with no points to account for their efforts with just Arsenal left to play next week in the last game of Dundalk extended season.
The priority of the FAI Cup Final meant that while changes were made tonight three goals conceded from free headers will raise plenty of concern as Magnus Wolff Eikrem inspired Molde swept past Dundalk to leave them out in the cold in Norway.
With just Arsenal left to play next week the focus will now shift to Sunday but also on the ongoing contract situation of several key players.
Dundalk made six changes to the side that beat Athlone 11-0 on Sunday with Hoare, Gannon, Flores, Dummigan, Oduwa and Kelly in for Cleary, Mountney, McEleney, Leahy, McMillan and Duffy.
Daniel Kelly started his first European game for Dundalk tonight after coming off the bench to score the winning goal in the playoff match in September. It’s his seventh appearance in total in Europe for the club and has made quite an impact from the bench. He led the line tonight partnering Nathan Oduwa.
For the home side, a chance of still qualifying to the second round of the European competition meant that the onus was on them to be forwarding thinking from the offset. The opening periods of the game were exclusively in the Dundalk half with the defensive line being called into early action. Despite compounding pressure, an Andy Boyle marshalled back line held firm. Birk Risa had a shot from range took a deflection from range following some clever sharp passing play in the Dundalk area, Molde from that had thee corners both of which saw Cameron Dummigan clear from the goal line, the third saw Gregersen have a free header at the back post but his effort went wide with the back post gaping.
Dundalk main attacking threats came from set plays with the front line, in particular, Daniel Kelly looking threatening from the counter-attack. The best opportunities came from a Jordan Flores and Cameron Dummingan crosses but on both occasions with players in attacking positions the crosses were over hit and didn’t pose any issues to the Molde defence. Martin Ellingsen had a great chance to open the scoring as another Molde corner, their sixth in the opening thirty minutes was at sixes and sevens in the area and Ellingsen struck a shot on target but without the necessary pace and power behind it, it was well saved by Rogers.
Dundalk opened up the Molde defence as Kelly and Oduwa found themselves barrelling down on the Molde defence with just one defender to beat, Kelly set Oduwa free but the pass was overhit and Linde gathered with ease.
And in a matter of seconds of that chance, the home side took the lead when Magnus Wolff Eikrem met a cross is sent that was sent into the area and he ghosted in between Boyle and Gartland to head it past Rogers to give Molde the lead. The goalscorer nearly added a second but Rogers this time was equal to his effort clutching the ball as it went goalward.
Nathan Oduwa had a good chance after Daniel Kelly did excellently to set up his strike partner and his long-range effort while on target would have needed something extra special to beat Linde. Molde got their second when Ohi Omoijuanfo latched onto a cross from the right and despite the attentions from Dummigan Omoijuanfo powerfully headed it past Rogers, the striker had been quiet for the majority of the first half but he was like all good strikers at the right place at the right time.
Jordan Flores had a clear chance at goal and while he had Oduwa waiting in the wings to aid the attack the midfielder went himself and his effort went over – as the saying does go however at this level you need to take the chances presented.
Gary Rogers produced a world-class save from Henry Wingo when he headed goalwards from an Eikrem corner for a third on the night and put the tie to bed only for the experienced keeper to deny him and push the ball around the near post. Omoijuanfo looked as if he had got his second on the night when a cross from the left was sent in and he gave a deft touch towards goal but it took a deflection and went wide.
Molde got their third as from a corner from Eikrem was headed past Rogers by Martin Ellingsen to seal the tie with twenty minutes to go. Three goals from headers from crosses into the area from what used to be one of the meanest defences that were seen in Ireland leaves a lot to be desired.
While three centre backs may work to ensure the coverage in League of Ireland matches, in Europe the gaps left particularly in wide areas was what Molde exploited to ensure the goals.
David McMillan’s entry to the game saw the prospect of the striker breaking a striking record in Europe for an Irish player, he got his opportunity when a quick phase of play from McEleney and Mountney saw him set the ball into the path of the striker but Linde gathered the ball easily.
Michael Duffy’s free-kick saw the ball land to Jordan Flores who tried to add to the 2020 fantastic goal reel but his long-range effort went wide he would, however, have the last laugh. There was a worrying moment as Brian Gartland went down badly under a challenge from a corner, with the cup final on Sunday the side couldn’t afford injuries ahead of the showcase final.
Jordan Flores scored an absolute peach of a strike to give some gloss to a difficult night with a high flying effort that left Linde grasping at air. A great way to end the game in what was a tough night for Dundalk.
Molde: 1 Andreas Linde, 20 Henry Wingo, 6 Stian Gregersen, 5 Sheriff Sinyan, 3 Birk Risa, 17 Fredrik Aursnes (5 Tobias Christensen), 7 Magnus Wolff Eikrem, 11 Martin Ellingsen, 19 Eirik Hestad (9 Mattias Moström), 99 Ohi Omoijuanfo (30 Mathis Bolly), 14 Erling Knudtzon.
SUBS: 12 Alexandro Craninx, 26 Mathias Ranmark, 9 Mattias Moström, 10 Leke James, 15 Tobias Christensen, 16 Etzaz Hussain, 22 Ola Brynhildsen, 27 Marcus Holmgren Pedersen, 30 Mathis Bolly
Dundalk: 1 Gary Rogers, 3 Brian Gartland, 44 Andy Boyle (21 Daniel Cleary 60), 4 Sean Hoare, 2 Sean Gannon, 5 Chris Shields (8 John Mountney 58 mins), 6 Jordan Flores, 10 Greg Sloggett (11 Patrick McEleney 60), 23 Cameron Dummigan, 17 Nathan Oduwa (7 Michael Duffy 60), 27 Daniel Kelly (29 David McMillan 73 mins).
SUBS: 20 Aaron McCarey, 30 Jimmy Corcoran, 15 Darragh Leahy, 16 Sean Murray, 24 Jamie Wynne, 29 David McMillan.
Referee: Daniel Siebert (GER)
Booked: Stian Gregersen, Brian Gartland
Attendance: Approx 600