Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena United can hold heads high after battling performance

Ballymena U 0 Odd Grenland 2 - Odd win 5-0 on aggregate

By Stephen Alexander

Ballymena United's Europa League adventure came to an expected end - but David Jeffrey's side can hold their heads high after a commendable performance in defeat.

Two late goals proved the Sky Blues' undoing at Seaview as the Norwegian side Odd followed up their 3-0 first leg win with a 2-0 success.

The Sky Blues were forced to start without skipper Jim Ervin - who is currently on a pre-arranged family holiday - and injured centre-back Kyle Owens, with Emmet Friars and Andrew Burns making their first starts in a re-shuffled back four.

The Norwegian side started brightly with Jone Samuelsen cutting in from the right but his left-foot shot was comfortably saved by United goalkeeper Ross Glendinning.

Glendinning was again involved in the opening minutes when he made a smart save with his legs from Olivier Occean's shot after a slip from Sky Blues defender Friars on the edge of his own penalty area.

Ballymena began to gain a foothold in the game and came close to taking the lead on 10 minutes when Kevin Braniff's low snap-shot forced a sharp save at his near post from Odd keeper Sondre Rossbach.

The visitors went close again when Glendinning did well to keep out Espen Ruud's low free-kick. And from a Ruud corner, Fredrik Semb Benge headed over when well placed as the visitors began to assert control.

The second half was a more low-key affair than the opening period with the visitors content to ease towards the next qualifying round. United boss Jeffrey threw on Johnny McMurray in place of a tiring Cathair Friel but Ballymena rarely looked like breaking their 33-year streak without a goal in European competition.

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested in a pedestrian second 45 minutes until a goal eventually arrived in bizarre fashion with 11 minutes left.

Full-back John Kitelano swung in a corner-kick from the right and among a crowded penalty area, the ball cannoned off the head of unfortunate Ballymena defender Leroy Millar and nestled in the corner of the net.

The Norwegians rubbed salt into Ballymena's wounds with a second goal on 88 minutes.

A long ball sailed over the Sky Blues defence and left two Odd players racing clear. Riku Riski drew Glendinning to one side and squared the ball for team-mate Sigurd Haugen to roll the ball into the unguarded net.

Ballymena Utd: Glendinning (Allen 89), Burns, Flynn, Friars, Millar, McKinney, T Kane, Gault, McCloskey (Lowry 85), Braniff, Friel (McMurray 72). Subs not used: E Kane, Shevlin, McCullough, Loughran.

Odd: Rossbach, Ruud, Hagen, Semb Berge, Kitelano, Samuelsen, Oldrup Jensen, Nordkvelle, Broberg (Haugen 77), Occean (Agdestein 81), Diouf (Riski 62). Subs not used: Rosholt Myhra, Bergan, Berg, Mladenovic.

Match rating: 5/10.

Referee: Radek Prihoda (Czech Republic)

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