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Cliftonville are left facing uphill battle after Solitude pain

Cliftonville 0 Haugesund 1

Net buster: Christian Grindheim finds the target
Net buster: Christian Grindheim finds the target

By Ian Callender

Cliftonville left themselves with a mountainous task to reach the second qualifying round of the Europa League after conceding a first-half goal at Solitude.

A Christian Grindheim strike gave Haugesund the advantage to take to Norway, and the team that beat Coleraine 7-0 in their home leg two years ago were always in control despite a late second-half rally by the Reds.

Cliftonville were unchanged from the team that beat Barry Town in the second leg of the first qualifying round here, while neither of Haugesund's top two scorers this season were in the matchday 18.

Joe Gormley wasted no time in getting in a shot - 30 seconds to be precise - but although it was just over, it signalled the Reds' attacking intentions.

The best chance of making progress was to get on the scoresheet in the home leg and they had a golden chance just after the half-hour when Conor McDermott's cross found Chris Curran unmarked, but his header flew wide of the far upright.

By then the Norwegians had proven they were not here just to play on the breakaway. With Martin Samuelsen pulling the strings on the right of midfield, they threatened danger.

Haugesund should have gone in front in the 21st minute. Grindheim's cross was met by Ibrahima Kone, but somehow McDermott deflected it onto the post and the danger was cleared.

Three minutes before half-time, the visitors took the lead. A neat build-up ended with a cross by right-back Mikkel Desler and Grindheim made no mistake.

The goal all but killed the contest, with Haugesund content to nullify the Reds' attacking threat, and it was the 67th minute before Conor McMenamin got in behind the defence. He delivered an accurate cross but Rory Donnelly was always stretching for a header which goalkeeper Helge Sandvik dealt with comfortably.

Donnelly had an even better chance in the 74th minute but he appeared to pull out of a headed chance from Levi Ives' cross.

Haugesund had to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men after Torbjom Kallevag was given a straight red for a challenge on McDermott, but the Reds were unable to take advantage.

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