Cliftonville 0-1 Nordsjælland
Cliftonville fell to the narrowest of defeats at Nordsjælland earned a first leg victory in this evening’s Europa League First Qualifying Round clash at Solitude.
Trailing to Andreas Olsen’s close-range conversion on 19 minutes, the Reds improved as the contest wore on but, despite being unable to force their way back into things on the night, will head to Denmark next week still very much alive in the tie.
The hosts started brightly and forced a corner within seconds of the kick-off and, though nothing came of that particular venture, the deadlock was almost broken on six minutes when debutant Conor McMenamin headed wide from Chris Curran’s deep delivery.
Nordsjælland’s first threat came from the left boot of Godsway Donyoh, whose fiercely struck attempt whistled off target just minutes before he made a telling contribution to the only goal of the night.
Karlo Bartolec’s darting run down the channel ended with a low cross which caused momentary chaos in the Cliftonville area and provided Donyoh with just enough time and space to tee Olsen up for the most simple of finishes.
That would prove the last action of note in a first-half that had seen lone striker Joe Gormley grow more and more isolated but Cliftonville addressed that issue at the break and emerged reinvigorated for an encouraging second period that began with Gormley having a shot charged down at the edge of the area.
Despite the Reds’ improvement, it was the Danes who almost banked the night’s next goal when Bartolec let fly with a swerving longe-range blast that drew a wonderful flying save from Brian Neeson.
Levi Ives deflected a Donyoh attempt over the top before creating the hosts’ best opening of the night. His quickly taken free-kick caught Nordsjælland napping but McMenamin was unable to make the most of the opportunity; his miscued effort inviting Garry Breen to throw himself in for a header which didn’t trouble goalkeeper Nicolai Larsen.
A couple of minutes later, a little bit of Club history was written when, in marking his return to competitive action following 17 months out with a double-leg break, 62nd minute substitute Ryan Catney stepped in to make his 18th European appearance for the Reds – breaking Ronan Scannell’s record for continental outings.
As the contest ebbed and flowed, Neeson got down well to thwart Donyoh before Rory Donnelly’s attempt to pick out Gormley was intercepted by the alert Andreas Skovgaard.
Nordsjælland almost doubled their advantage with just under a quarter of an hour to play but, in attempting to chase down Mathias Jensen’s throughball, substitute Martin Sonder Frese completely lost his balance and Neeson was able to gather.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Gormley, McMenamin. Subs: Dunne, Garrett (McMenamin, 74 mins), McDonald, Catney (McGovern, 62 mins), Lavery, A Donnelly, McNulty.
Half Gate Draw Number: 90497