UEL: No breakthrough possible away in Norway
The team headed to Norway in good time ahead of the clash against Molde FK, and although everyone had settled in well, the artificial turf was always going to be one more thing to acclimatise to on the night. Head coach Didi Kühbauer wanted to play down the differences of the pitch, instead preferring to trust in the strengths of our team as shown by our 4-3 win away at WAC last Sunday. Paul Gartler got the nod to start in goal with Leo Greiml coming in at the back too, and Koya Kitagawa alongside Ercan Kara up front tasked with making the breakthrough against Molde's defence, given that Taxi Fountas was still injured.
The 600 home fans allowed in watched their team put on the first spell of pressure, with Gartler called into action from an Eikrim shot inside the opening minute, as well as having to stretch to tip a Haugen header over (9’) and then deny Omoijuanfo as he turned to shoot (18’). The first Rapid chance only came half an hour in, when Kara shot too centrally to cause much damage. Overall, Molde's strategy of sitting deep worked well for them, as we broke through all too rarely and they were able to bypass the midfield to break forward on occasion. Home captain Eikrim again caused danger in the box when he was set up from a quick ball forward, but once more Gartler was on point to parry the ball to safety (36’). Just before the break though, we suddenly went closest to the opener when Marcel Ritzmaier lined up a long shot which hit the keeper, the post and then the keeper again, before bouncing to safety (43’)! We needed to see more of that in the second half!
We started the second period with a change, as Kelvin Arase replaced Thorsten Schick, who had been battered and bruised in the first half. Still the hosts were on top though, and Gartler made perhaps his finest stop so far when he had to race out to smother an Omoijuanfo shot from through on goal (55’). Another home chance fell for Aursnes, who somehow fired into the ground and over the bar after a high cross (59’). Disappointingly, after holding out for so long, the opening goal came for Molde when Haugen played a deep square ball for Omoijuanfo to sweep into the empty net (65’). It had, in truth, been coming, but we now had to up the tempo and get something from the game.
Rapid did manage to increase the pressure, with Arase heading across the six-yard box for Kara, who shot wide of the target (74’). Kara had another effort from further out (83’), but that was the best it got, as Molde held us at bay on the night. At least it's only one week until the next European showdown, when we welcome Dundalk to Hütteldorf next Thursday.
Photos: GEPA Pictures.
UEFA Europa League, 2. Match day:
Molde FK - SK Rapid 1:0 (0:0)
Aker-Stadium, 600 Attendance, Ref Ardeleanu (CZE)
Goal: 1:0 Omoijuanfo (65.)
Molde FK: Linde – Wingo, Björnbak, Gregersen, Haugen – Aursnes, Eikrem (84./James), Ellingsen – Hestad (68./Bolly), Omoijuanfo, Brynhildsen (77./Hussain)
SK Rapid: Gartler – Stojkovic, Greiml, Barac, Ullmann – Schick (46./Arase), D. Ljubicic, Grahovac (77./Ibrahimoglu), Ritzmaier – Kara, Kitagawa (59./Knasmüllner)
Yellow Cards: Wingo, Ellingsen, Aursnes; Ljubicic, Greiml;