Rose' nip it in the bud
Europa dreams end as Norwegians sink Sligo while heroic Dundalk and Derry fall
FOR Sligo Rovers, there was no way past one of the best sides in Norway as Irish interest in UEFA competition ended for this season with a 3-1 defeat at home by Rosenborg, the Norwegians through 4-3 on aggregate.
In the main it was a grim night in a grim week for Irish footballers across the continent, with Sligo falling at home last night, Derry City losing their away Europa League tie and the Irish U19 women's side ending their European Championship dream with a heavy defeat by Holland in the semi-final, though Dundalk did make a mark with their astounding win in Croatia.
Hopes of progress for Sligo, and a clash with Turkish oppositon in the next round, were raised when Danny North scored a 13th-minute goal to give the home side a 1-0 lead and, crucially, put them 3-1 ahead on aggregate.
But a Rosenborg side with seven internationals in their starting XI - and more on the bench - simply had a bit too much for the Bit O'Red and goals from Pal Andre Helland and Danish international Mike Jensen (2) put the tie out of reach for Rovers.
"We have missed a glorious opportunity here," said Sligo boss John Coleman.
"We had a good go but defensive errors cost us, over the two legs we were the better side but they punished us for mistakes we make.
"We limited them to five chances but they scored three so you have to applaud Rosenborg for being clinical, that's how you win leagues and win ties,
"Rosenborg's staff and players came here under immense pressure, we know their last manager lost his job because of the result over there.
"There wasn't much in the game, it was an even game but in terms of quality they had more than us, we are disappointed with the goals we conceded as we feel we could have stopped all three."
Sligo teams have let down their fans when it came to European football in recent seasons, a series of first-round exits, but the 2014 vintage had been spoiling the supporters.
There were early signs of good things to come from Sligo in the opening stages at a packed Showgrounds last night, Kieran Djilali setting up a chance for Danny North in the second minute, although they had to be alert at the other end, with a clean catch from Gary Rogers on 12 minutes ending the threat posed by a tricky cross from Pal Andre Helland.
But with just 13 minutes gone, Sligo gave their supporters yet another European treat when North fired them into the lead.
It came from a thrilling move, Séamus Conneely working the ball well to set up Alan Keane and the long-serving Sligo right-back sent in a cross which North met with a fine finish.
Unfortunately, Sligo then seemed to lose focus as Rosenborg equalised within three minutes, Helland finishing past Rogers from a cross by Morten Gamst Pedersen.
It could have been even worse for the home side as Rosenborg threatened to take the lead for the first time in the tie, Evan McMillan denying Riku Riski on 22 minutes and Kalen Spillane clearing off the line from Ole Selanes in the 36th minute.
Instead of crumbling before the Norwegians, though, Sligo, driven in midfield by the superb John Russell, went back for more, battling for and winning possession in the middle.
Sadly, Jensen made it 2-1 on the night three minutes after the break with a shot from the edge of the box after Rovers failed to clear.
As the scoreline stood the tie was heading to extra time, but the Norwegians had more in them and once Jensen scored his second of the night to make it 4-3 on aggregate to the Norwegians, extra time was off the menu.
But so was a Sligo revival. Manager John Coleman tried to save matters, bringing on youngsters Sean Maguire and Ruairi Keating and changing his shape to play a three-man defence, but Rosenborg, inspired in midfield by ex-Blackburn man Morten Gamst Pedersen, controlled things in the middle of the park and denied Sligo any chance to impact on the game.
"I have to applaud our players, they worked themselves in the ground over the two legs," boss Coleman added.
"The pleasing aspect is seeing my players standing up in the dressing room afterwards and saying 'we want to taste that again next season', and to do that we need to stay unbeaten until the rest of the season."
Meanwhile, Dundalk put up a heroic display against Hajduk Split in Croatia, earning a 2-1 away win thanks to goals from Patrick Hoban and Kurtis Byrne.
However, the Irish side lost out on a 3-2 aggregate after last week's 2-0 home reverse.
Derry City crashed out after going down 5-1 to Shakhtar Soligorsk in Belarus, losing 6-1 on aggregate.