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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

Shamrock Rovers dealt heavy Conference League defeat by dominant Molde side

Molde 3 Shamrock Rovers 0

Shamrock Rovers pitched up in Molde with a new approach, but finished the game lamenting the same old story.

This was never a contest, rather one-way traffic from start to finish as Molde’s ease of effort ensured they never broke sweat.

The host’s 26 attempts on goal - eight of them on target - was a telling statistic on a night when they bossed every facet of play.

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That Rovers finished the game without a shot on target was an equalling daming stat as the Hoops struggles away from home continued.

In their four away games this summer against higher ranked opponents - Ludogorets, Ferencvaros, Gent and Molde - Rovers have conceded 13 goals without scoring.

In the build-up, Stephen Bradley stressed the need for Rovers to learn their lessons from Gent three weeks ago when they were 2-0 down after 18 minutes.

And he set out his team with a more defensive approach in mind, deploying a 5-4-1 formation when out of possession.

Alas, familiar failings returned to haunt them here as the Hoops were trailing by the 10th minute of a half in which they struggled to get over the halfway line.

And that scenario repeated itself four minutes into the second-half when Ola Brynhildsen scored his second of the night.

“It's on us as players,” said Rovers midfielder Sean Kavanagh. “We can't keep doing this if we want to come to these places and get results.

“It's a tough place to come to anyway without hurting ourselves. Giving them an early goal just makes it even tougher.”

But even at the break, the 1-0 scoreline flattered Rovers who were struggling to tread water and clearly had their eye on the league title race considering the XI selected.

Jack Byrne never kicked a ball and Graham Burke, Dylan Watts and Rory Gaffney were thrown in at various stages of the second half when it was too late to rescue the game.

Asked if he was surprised by the Rovers selection, Molde boss Erling Moe said: “A little bit but I know they have a really important game on Sunday.

“The coach has to do what is best for the team today and on Sunday, so I understand it.”

Molde’s speed of thought outfoxed the Hoops every time - and they opened their account early on.

Magnus Grodem’s movement between the lines was exceptional and when he laid off a ball to Kristian Eriksen’s, his cross was teed up by Etzaz Hussain for Brynhildsen.

He smashed it home beyond Alan Mannus and thereafter Molde were relentless in their pursuit of a second, sensing they could put the game to bed early doors.

Bradley said: “We knew we would have to give up possession for large parts with how we were set up but we gave away two really poor goals.

The second to be fair, Sean Kavanagh deflected it into his path. When you see it back, Lee Grace is coming onto it and Sean deflected it past him into his path.

“Sometimes things like that happen but it's just frustrating the timing of it.

“You're thinking 'just stay where it is’, 1-0, until 60 or 65 minutes and you can make the subs we could have made and had a right go at it.

“But the second goal was unfortunate and just really poor timing.”

But before that killer second, Rovers were already fighting a ferocious rearguard action.

Andy Lyons blocked a vicious Martin Linnes shot that looked destined for Mannus’ goal and the goalkeeper was then at full stretch to deny Eriksen.

Rovers were working overtime just to contain them. And they couldn’t even do that with any sense of authority.

Indeed, it was alarming just how easily Molde were able to get in behind the Rovers low block.

Time and again, the Irish champions invited trouble and they were far too passive in their defensive duties.

Off a corner, Eirik Haugan headed wide from a great position and Hussain was close to scoring the goal his dangerous play deserved 10 minutes before the break.

Rovers were struggling in all departments, yet Bradley resisted the temptation to change his side at the break.

But four minutes into that second-half, Rovers slipped even further behind as their night unravelled.

Eriksen smashed a shot off the crossbar and Brynhildsen was well placed to outjump Ronan Finn and shoulder the ball over the line from close range.

Kavanagh said: “We need to have a look at the goals and see what we can do better. The timing of them was really bad but they are a good side.”

Rory Gaffney’s arrival 10 minutes into that half was enforced as Aidomo Emakhu was forced off with an ankle injury that is set to rule him out of the Shels game.

“He rolled it twice, the same ankle,” said Bradley. “On the artificial surface, that's the risk. It's after swelling up so I’d imagine he will struggle for Sunday.”

The young striker had struggled to impact the game, and may well have been coming off anyway.

But any hope that Gaffney could make an impact that changed the outlook of the game were extinguished by the 58th minute.

Mannus watched Linnes’ deep cross all the way and had to react as it threatened to creep in under the crossbar.

But in batting the ball away, he gift-wrapped it for Hussain who finished with ease from eight yards as the Hoops sank to the bottom of the group.

Rovers will be reacquainted with the Norwegian rivals in Tallaght next Thursday night, but Sunday’s clash with Shelbourne is the priority.


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