Battling Reds have sinking feeling
FK Haugesund 5 Cliftonville 1 (Haugesund win 6-1 on agg)
Cliftonville's Europa League journey is over after a comprehensive defeat to FK Haugesund in Norway where teenage sensation Kristoffer Velde turned on the style.
The 19-year-old opened and finished the scoring last night claiming two spectacular goals as the home side won 5-1 in Haugesund Stadion with Conor McMenamin on target for the visitors.
Trailing by a single goal from the first leg at Solitude, the Reds were always going to be up against it in the return of the first qualifying round tie and in the end the extra class of Velde and his team-mates told.
Paddy McLoughlin's side were determined to make a solid start but found themselves behind in the fifth minute to a sensational strike from Velde. The midfielder turned sharply and then unleashed a brilliant 30 yard effort which sailed past Richard Brush in the Cliftonville goal.
At that stage the visitors could have buckled. Instead, 17 minutes in were level thanks to McMenamin displaying desire and industry to race into the box and find the net from Joe Gormley's cross.
With the vital away goal in the bank for a 20-minute period Cliftonville supporters would have been dreaming about creating a shock in Norway.
They enjoyed a lucky break, though, when Anthony Ikedi nodded against the bar but seconds later, in the 37th minute, they weren't so fortunate with Martin Samuelsen's looping header from a Niklas Sandberg delivery ending up in the net.
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Cliftonville's record goalscorer Gormley had a chance shortly after to level the game up again but having created space inside the box he shot wide.
Two goals either side of the break killed the tie with first Mali under-20 international Ibrahima Kone netting from close range in first half injury time and then Bruno Leite doing the same on 52 minutes.
McLaughlin and his defence will feel both could have been prevented.
The fear for the north Belfast outfit entering the final third was that they might be on the end of the type of hammering that Ballymena United received in Malmo last week or when Coleraine were battered by Haugesund two years ago in the same competition. Those games finished with 7-0 losses for the Irish League sides.
As it turned out Cliftonville would only concede once more on the night limiting their pain.
Truth be told any team would have struggled to stop the brilliant Velde scoring in the 68th minute. He produced sumptuous control before curling the ball into the net - his first was glorious but this was even better.
HAUGESUND: Sandvik, Desler, Bergqvist, Hansen, Sandberg, Tronstad, Ikedi, Leite, Samuelsen (Ndayisenga 72), Kone (Krygard 61), Velde. Subs not used: Gostomski, Knudsen, Grindheim, Pedersen.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McDermott, Breen, Gorman, McMenamin, C Curran, Bagnall (R Curran 61), Doherty (Wilson 80), Ives, Gormley (Maguire 70), Donnelly. Subs not used: Dunne, Harney, Harkin, Foster.
Referee: Mario Zebec (Croatia)
Man of the match: Velde (Haugesund)
Match rating: 7/10.