Erling Moe and Molde FK’s hopes of a continued fairytale have taken a substantial dent, following a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the hands of their recent hosts, Granada CF. In their opening foray into the Uefa Europa League Round of 16, Molde succumbed to a side that just seemed to possess a little more depth in quality.
Following Molde’s inspired performance against German side Hoffenheim in the Uefa Europa League Round of 32, it was always going to be a tall order to replicate the same level of upset.
Against Hoffenheim, Molde were barraged by a continuous onslaught, but, were able to withstand massive sums of pressure, and retaliate in clinical fashion, which ultimately sealed their place in the next phase of the competition.
In contrast, Molde were almost evenly matched at a statistical level with their Spanish hosts. The difference in this game was that Granada seemed to possess an element of quality and creativity that Molde were apparently lacking in.
As with Hoffenheim, Granada were able to create opportunities by utilizing space in wide positions, using crossed balls, and as with before, Andreas Linde was called into action to deny aerial attacks.
Old dog; same tricks
Granada made the all-important breakthrough in the 26th minute when 38-year-old Jorge Molina was able to move in behind Molde’s defense and coolly slide the ball past the otherwise impressive Linde in the Molde goal.
In truth, Molde’s number 5, Sheriff Sinyan, will surely feel that he could have done a little better, slipping at the pivotal moment, and allowing Molina to capitalize. But, with all things considered, Granada had looked in danger of scoring from the off, and the goal was fair on the balance of play.
Granada continued to look dangerous in the second half. Controlled and accurate passing, often synonymous with Spanish football clubs, was on display.
Granada’s Antonio Peurtas came close to doubling the home advantage early in this period. Cutting in from the flank, he sold Molde’s Sheriff a textbook dummy and unleashed a low drive towards goal.
Thankfully for Molde, Stian Roge Gregersen was there to intervene with a last-ditch tackle, averting further damage.
The beginning of the end
The pressure of the evening, the stage, and the bright lights appeared to be affecting Molde, and on the 71st minute, their impending defeat took a turn for the inevitable.
Martin Ellingsen was given his second yellow card in the space of a few minutes, for a pair of rash and badly timed tackles that appeared to be symptomatic of a player feeling the heat of new kitchen.
With 10 men left on the pitch, Molde’s uphill struggle appeared to gain a few extra degrees in gradient.
Linde at fault
No one has contributed to Molde’s Europa League run to a greater extent than their goalkeeper, Andreas Linde. However, he will undoubtedly feel aggrieved at himself.
On the 76th minute, Roberto Soldado placed Granada firmly into pole position. Striking from the edge of Molde’s penalty area, he rifled a low volley past Linde, beating the Molde number 1 at his near post.
Linde appeared to retract his hands, almost in the assumption that the shot was destined to fly wide. However, the realization of the error was etched on Linde’s face, as the ball nestled in the back of Molde’s net.
Everything to do; everything to play for
Molde will play Granada on March 18, 6:55 PM, Norwegian Time, for the second leg of the tie, at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest. Erling Moe’s side face an obvious upstream swim, requiring a 2-0 victory simply to extend the tie into extra time.
Should Granada score, then Molde will need to win by three goals, on account of the weighted advantage of away goals, with extra time no longer an option.
There is stark similarity in the situation to that of the previous round against German side Hoffenheim: away goals in favor of the opposition, opposition from a higher quality league, and defensive mishaps in the first leg.
It will be the hope of Molde, and their contingent of loyal fans then, that a who-dares-wins performance may also be a similarity that will be on display, come the evening of March 18.
Source: #Norway Today
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