Cliftonville are down but not out after gutsy home display
Cliftonville 0 Nordsjaelland 1
Cliftonville remain very much alive in their Europa League showdown with Nordsjælland but the Danes' single goal victory at Solitude last night puts them firmly in control of proceedings ahead of next week's return tie.
Andreas Olsen's first-half goal threatened to open the floodgates but, after regaining their composure, the Reds gave their visitors plenty to think about as the game progressed and came away frustrated not to have at least levelled the scores after a fine second-half display.
Barry Gray handed debuts to two of his summer acquisitions, with former Ballinamallard United ace Ryan Curran joining ex-Warrenpoint Town man Conor McMenamin in a five-man midfield that called upon the services of a more withdrawn Rory Donnelly.
The injury-enforced absence of his younger brother Jay meant that the Reds' joint-top European goalscorer will have to wait at least a week to break the two-goal record he shares with Northern Ireland international Liam Boyce.
The Reds went close on six minutes when Chris Curran's hanging cross fell invitingly for McMenamin at the back post but his header drifted wide of the mark.
Nordsjælland felt their way into the game and when Godsway Donyoh sent the ball across the face of goal, Olsen was on hand to convert from close range.
The rest of the half saw Nordsjælland exert greater and greater control without necessarily creating anything to trouble their hosts but, with Joe Gormley isolated at the other end of the park, the visitors were relatively content to hold a one-goal advantage come the break.
Nordsjælland were almost caught out just past the hour when Levi Ives' quick free-kick set McMenamin away and, though he miscued his effort, Garry Breen almost made a telling connection.
Cliftonville drove forward during the closing exchanges, but Andreas Skovgaard's interception stopped Gormley from opening a path to goal.
Martin Sonder Frese should have wrapped things up 13 minutes from time but he tripped over his own feet in attempting to seize upon Jensen's pass.