Glenavon 2 – 1 Molde
UEFA Europa League, Qualifying Round 1, 1st Leg
Mourneview Park, Wednesday July 11th 2018
Match Report by Calum Jones
Glenavon produced one of their finest ever European displays to defeat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde 2 – 1 at Mourneview Park on Wednesday night in the first leg of their Europa League first round qualifying tie.
The Norwegian visitors went ahead through the impressive Eirik Hestad late in the first half, but Glenavon responded almost immediately through man of the match Rhys Marshall, who headed in from an Andrew Hall corner.
Marshall then turned provider midway through the second period when he played in Josh Daniels to make it 2 – 1.
Molde were awarded a penalty six minutes from time, but Fredrik Aursnes dragged his spot-kick wide, ensuring that Glenavon will take a precious one-goal lead into the second leg next Thursday.
Glenavon were under no illusions about the difficulty of the task they faced in taking on a side that won a Norwegian league and cup double as recently as 2014 and can boast victories over Sevilla and Celtic in recent seasons.
It was no surprise then that Molde had the game’s first clear-cut chance in the 10th minute. Hestad linked with Erling Braut Haland to fashion a shooting opportunity for himself, but he could only drag his low effort wide of Jonathan Tuffey’s left-hand post.
Seventeen-year-old Haland, son of former Leeds United and Manchester City player Alf- Inge, has been attracting interest from a host of clubs across Europe this season as a result of his goalscoring exploits, but Andrew Doyle had an outstanding game against him, almost completely nullifying his threat.
Haland played Hestad in again on 16 minutes. This time his left-foot shot was tame and straight at Tuffey.
Glenavon grew in confidence as the first half wore on, with Mark Sykes in particular catching the eye in midfield. He was involved in some neat build-up play in the 24th minute along with Josh Daniels and newcomers Niall Grace and Stephen Donnelly which released Stephen Murray into the penalty area, only for the striker to be penalised for straying offside.
Just after the half-hour mark another debutant, Gary Muir, whipped in a dangerous cross from the left flank which was unfortunate not to fall for Murray.
Molde broke the deadlock in the 36th minute. Left-back Kristoffer Haugen cleverly jinked past Caolan Marron close to the byline before playing the ball into Pettr Strand in the penalty area. Strand laid it off for Hestad, and this time he made no mistake, firing in off the far post with his left foot.
However, Glenavon’s response was almost instantaneous. They won a corner soon after the restart which Hall whipped in and Marshall rose highest in the six-yard box to nod in the equaliser.
Molde might have regained the lead just three minutes into the second period. Doyle made an uncharacteristic mistake when he gave the ball away to Aursnes on the edge of the box. The midfielder fired a shot in at the near post which almost squirmed its way through Tuffey, but the keeper managed to safely gather it.
A few minutes later Molde’s right-back Christoffer Remmer fizzed a dangerous ball across the six-yard line which somehow evaded everybody.
Glenavon took the lead on 59 minutes, and that man Marshall was heavily involved again. He stooped to make a timely interception with his head just outside his own penalty area, nodding the ball to Donnelly. The striker played it back to Marshall with a classy back-heel flick, and the full-back set off on one of his trademark surges, carrying the ball all the way to the edge of the Molde box before he slipped it to his left, playing in Daniels. The winger’s first touch wasn’t great, taking him away from goal, but he still had the composure to finish, sliding the ball beneath the onrushing Andreas Linde and inside the near post to put the Lurgan Blues ahead.
The home side could have doubled their lead a few minutes later when Murray pounced on an error by midfielder Babacar Sarr to race clear. However, as Haugen caught up with him, the striker attempted a lob which harmlessly found the arms of Linde.
Glenavon knew that the Norwegians would come on strong in the later stages of the game as they went in search of an equaliser, but the home side defended resolutely. First Marron made an excellent tackle on substitute Daniel Chima to deny him a goalscoring opportunity on 65 minutes. Then Marshall did well to clear two minutes later when Hestad played in a low cross towards the back post.
In the 75th minute the ball fell to Chima following a throw-in from Haugen from the left, but the striker mishit his shot and Tuffey comfortably saved.
The Molde pressure eventually told six minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty when referee Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen adjudged Doyle to have upended Chima. Aursnes stepped up to take the spot-kick, but he dragged it wide of Tuffey’s right-hand post, meaning that Glenavon held on for a famous victory, their first in Europe since a 1 – 0 win over Fimleikafelag Hafnarfjardar of Iceland in the preliminary round of the 1995/96 UEFA Cup.
Despite their 2 – 1 lead heading into the second leg in Molde next Thursday (July 19th), Glenavon will be well aware that the Norwegians remain heavy favourites to progress, but at least Gary Hamilton’s men have given themselves a fighting chance following a famous victory at Mourneview Park that will live long in the memory.
Glenavon: 1. Jonathan Tuffey (C), 4. Caolan Marron, 5. Andrew Doyle, 6. Niall Grace, 7. Josh Daniels, 8. Rhys Marshall, 10. Mark Sykes, 11. Andrew Hall, 12. Stephen Donnelly, 23. Gary Muir, 24. Stephen Murray
Subs: 22. Robbie Norton (for 12. Stephen Donnelly, 71 mins), 3. Dylan King (for 24. Stephen Murray, 90+1 mins), 30. Jordan Jenkins (for 7. Josh Daniels, 90+4 mins); not used: 18. James Taylor, 15. Aaron Harmon, 21. Jack O’Mahony, 80, Gary Hamilton
Goals: 8. Rhys Marshall (37 mins), 7. Josh Daniels (59 mins)
Yellow Cards: 6. Niall Grace (51 mins), 5. Andrew Doyle (89 mins), 30. Jordan Jenkins (90+5 mins)
Molde: 1. Andreas Linde, 4. Ruben Gabrielsen (C), 5. Vegard Forren, 8. Babacar Sarr, 14. Pettr Strand, 16. Etzaz Hussain, 17. Fredrik Aursnes, 19. Eirik Hestad, 22. Christoffer Remmer, 28. Kristoffer Haugen, 30. Erling Braut Haland
Subs: 27. Daniel Chima (for 16. Etzaz Hussain, 60 mins), 33. Fredrik Brustad (for 14. Pettr Strand, 70 mins), 21. Tobias Svendsen (for 30. Erling Braut Haland, 82 mins); not used: 26. Mathias Eriksen Ranmark, 6. Stian Rode Gregersen, 9. Mattias Mostrom, 13. Ibrahima Wadji
Goals: 19. Eirik Hestad (36 mins)
Yellow Cards: 4. Ruben Gabrielsen (72 mins), 27. Daniel Chima (89 mins)
Referee: Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen (Denmark)