Dundalk will have to repeat their feat of 12 months ago and score away in Scandinavia next week if they are to embark on another European adventure.
Just like last summer against Iceland’s FH Hafnarfjordur, David McMillan had the Lilywhites in dreamland with the opening goal against Rosenborg in last night’s second qualifying round first leg tie at Oriel Park.
However, just like last year a soft away goal — this time scored by centre back Tore Reiniussen just before half-time — leaves Stephen Kenny’s side facing an uphill task ahead of the return leg in Trondheim next Wednesday.
“I thought we started brilliantly,” said Kenny. “Rosenborg were always going to create a few chances against you because they are a really good side. But it’s just a sickening blow to concede just before half-time.”
Kenny is bullish ahead of the second leg next Wednesday, however. “We’re very much still in it... we have the capacity to score away goals.”
While the final score will come as something of a disappointment to Dundalk given they had the greater of the chances against Kåre Ingebrigtsen’s side, the Louth men will take confidence from a dominant display against the Norwegians.
Just like in Europe last year, the home side were certainly not overawed by the occasion but just like last year a lapse of concentration came back to haunt them.
This is familiar territory for the League of Ireland champions though as this time last year they were equally disappointed by a 1-1 draw at home before getting the job done with a 2-2 draw in Iceland.
It’s arguably a tougher task in Norway next week but on the evidence of last night, it’s not beyond them.
The home side started in determined fashion and could have been 1-0 up inside the opening 49 seconds when Dane Massey’s pull back from the left found the inrushing Robbie Benson who couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Dundalk then went even closer on seven minutes when goalkeeper Anders Hansen was forced to save with his feet from Michael Duffy.
The pressure finally told in the 18th minute when Duffy’s inswinging cross from the left was met by the head of McMillan, who steered his eighth career European goal expertly past Hansen to send Oriel Park wild.
Rosenborg almost conjured up an equaliser though with their first effort two minutes later. Niklas Bendtner’s shot deflected off Benson and had to be touched over by Gary Rogers.
The Norwegians went close again on the half hour mark when a cross from the right broke to Pal Andre Helland whose shot was parried clear by Rogers before being hooked to safety by Brian Gartland.
The visitors had a let-off three minutes later though when Hansen spilled John Mountney’s cross from the left only for Benson’s follow-up to be hooked off the line by Reginiussen.
Patrick McEleney would go close soon after with a long range effort that flashed just wide.
However, a good half of work for Dundalk was undone a minute before the break when Eggen Vegar Hedenstad’s inswinging free from the left wasn’t dealt with by Gartland with Reginiussen punishing the home side by bundling in from close range for what could prove to be a crucial away goal.
Things almost went from bad to worse for the Louth men seven minutes after the restart when Rosenborg captain Mike Jensen was slipped in on the right by Milan Jevtovic only to be denied by a smart stop from Rogers.
Anders Konradsen and McMillan then went close at either end before both sides went close to claiming a winner in stoppage time, with substitute Ciaran Kilduff heading just wide from a Mountney free before Massey denied Jensen with a superb block deep at the other end.
It’s all level at the break in this tie. Rosenborg might have a slight advantage but for Dundalk, this is a game that’s far from over.
Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Vemmelund (Barrett 64), Massey; Mountney, Benson, Shields, Duffy (Connolly 72); McEleney; McMillan (Kilduff 81). Subs not used: Sava, McGrath, Hoare, O’Donnell.
Hansen; Hedenstad, Reginiussen, Bjordal, Skjelvik; Jensen, Konradsen, Vilhjalmsson; Helland (Jevtovic 42), Bendtner, Midstjo (de Lanlay 81). Subs not used: Gersbach, Lundemo, Meling, Ostbo, Rasmussen.
Radu Petrescu (Romania).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved