Sligo Rovers’ first taste of Champions League football proved to be a learning experience as Molde took a narrow lead ahead of the return leg.
Without a host of first team players - Aaron Greene, Raffaelle Cretaro, Danny North and Danny Ventre due to injury and Pascal Millien who was on international duty - Ian Baraclough was somewhat limited in his attacking options.
After an assurred opening five minutes, Rovers retreated and were forced into a series of individual mistakes which were almost costly.
Some excellent goalkeeping from Gary Rogers kept the sides deadlocked while at the other end David McMillan was denied by Hyland.
With just three minutes of the half remaining Molde struck for the all important goal. Evan McMillan’s header fell kindly for Chima Chukwu and the Nigerian forward then took advantage of a Gavin Peers slip before dispacthing a perfect shot past Rogers.
The second half saw a significant improvement and the crowd rediscovered their voice as they urged the home side back into the contest.
The imperious Joseph Ndo was outstanding and the fresh legs of Keane and Djilali provided a real attacking threat.
Until the final moments hopes were high for an equaliser that, in Sligo at least, would have matched Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winner in 1999 but the the goal the home support craved never arrived.
The return leg took place last night (Tuesday) after we went to press.