Champions League: Linfield show true grit to stay in hunt
Linfield 0 Rosenborg 0: No goals but plenty of hope for the Bravehearts in Blue.
There were no whipping boys at Windsor Park last night as a well organised and hard working Linfield shut out Norwegian League pacesetters Rosenborg in the Champions League second qualifying round, first leg tie.
Linfield ‘spy’ Davy Chisholm is probably wanted by the Russians and Americans as his homework certainly proved constructive.
The Blues’ recent European history is littered with some fairytale results and the spirit of Dinamo Zagreb in 2008 and FK Ventspils of 2005 could yet result in another miracle on the continent.
Next up for the Blues is the 21,000 capacity Lerkendal Stadium for the second leg next Wednesday but they will travel to Norway in good heart.
Rosenborg created very few clear-cut opportunities as Blues goalkeeper Alan Blayney performed heroics and the men in front of him refused to be beaten.
And right at the death skipper Noel Bailie made an incredible goal-line clearance to secure a vital clean sheet.
Linfield were composed and rarely under pressure in the early stages as the visitors struggled to penetrate a backline marshalled by Bailie who was making his 35th appearance for the club in Europe.
In fact, Jeffrey’s men pinned their opponents back when a Robert Garrett free-kick forced Mikael Lustig to make a last-ditch headed clearance.
Rosenborg, with Ghana’s World Cup player Anthony Annan in their staring line-up, enjoyed plenty of possession in the middle of the park but failed to pose a genuine threat.
The home side conjured up the best chance of the half on 39 minutes.
Midfield enforcer Garrett skipped past the visitors’ defence on an impressive run but blasted his drive from a tight angle over the crossbar.
Just before the break Markus Henriksen turned sharply in the box and aimed a low shot goalwards but it was straight at Alan Blayney.
Linfield threatened first after the restart when Billy Joe Burns picked out Brian McCaul in the penalty area but, under pressure, the winger looped over.
On 56 minutes Steffen Iversen let fly from outside the box but the former Spurs man’s drive was comfortably held by Blayney and, at the other end, a lung busting run from the dangerous Peter Thompson resulted in a dangerous cross whipped into the penalty area but Annan managed to extinguish the threat.
Rosenborg were given a sight at goal in the 71st minute, though a stunning fingertip save from Blayney frustrated them again. Annan cut the ball back to Henriksen, who curled the ball towards the far post with power and precision but Blayney dived to tip the ball to safety.
Four minutes before the end Bailie produced the game’s final act of bravery when he somehow stretched out a leg to clear a close range shot from Morten Moldskred off the line.
The hard work lies ahead for Linfield but they have a fighting chance and certainly no shortage of fighting spirit.
LINFIELD: Blayney, Lindsay, Curran, Lowry (for McAllister 70), Thompson, Bailie, Burns (Ervin 76), Garrett, Mulgrew, McCaul (Carvill 61). Subs not used: Addis, Douglas, O’Kane, Allen, Ervin, McCallister.
ROSENBORG: Orlund, Lustig, Dorsin, Annan, Winsnes, Moldskred (Olsen 87), Demidov, Stadsgaard, Iversen, Henriksen, Traore (Strand 45). Subs not used: Olsen, Sellin, Lago, Bakenga, Asen, Braaten.
Referee: Said Ennjimi (France)