Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon exit with plenty to be proud of

Molde 5 Glenavon 1

Tough call: Glenavon’s Mark Sykes had a penalty appeal turned down against Molde
Tough call: Glenavon’s Mark Sykes had a penalty appeal turned down against Molde

By Steve Simpson

Glenavon supporters will remember their Europa League contest with Norwegian outfit Molde for some time. There was a famous home win, high praise from the legendary Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a good luck message courtesy of iconic Belfast musician Van Morrison and ultimately disappointment in exiting the competition.

Manager Gary Hamilton felt pride too that his players were able to mix it with Molde's gifted young players who are being courted by some of the biggest clubs in British football.

The scoreline of 5-1 to Molde in last night's return leg was harsh on a Glenavon side who for a period in the second half were chasing what would have been an incredible away goals success but in Eirik Hestad, Solskjaer's side had the outstanding and most influential player in the tie.

Hestad scored in the first leg at Mourneview Park when his team lost 2-1 and netted a hat-trick last night to ensure they progressed to the second qualifying round 6-3 on aggregate.

Just over a week ago former Manchester United hero Solskjaer hailed the effort of the Glenavon players and the individual quality of goalscorer Rhys Marshall and Mark Sykes.

Marshall was on holiday for the second leg, joining goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey, Sammy Clingan, James Singleton and Andrew Mitchell on the absentee list.

Without that quintet it was always going to be tough for Glenavon but they were boosted the night before the match by Van Morrison wishing them well. Van the Man, in Molde for a jazz festival, was staying in the same hotel as the Lurgan Blues.

It was the home side, however, who were on song at the start. Chima had a goal disallowed before James Taylor, replacing Tuffey, had to save well to deny Fredrik Brustad.

Hamilton's side were just finding their feet when a controversial penalty was awarded against Sykes for handball with Etzaz Hussain netting the 28th spot-kick.

Shortly after the Molde goalkeeper stopped a free-kick from Andrew Hall.

Then the dangerous Hestad took over, showing his skill with a dribble and one-two before doubling his team's advantage on 34 minutes.

Just before the hour mark Hestad made it 3-0, smashing the ball into the net after Chima had provided him with the opportunity.

To their credit Glenavon didn't drop their heads and found a way back into the game on 62 minutes when Hall's cross was sliced into his own net by Vegard Forren with 62 minutes on the clock.

Suddenly it was game on with the Lurgan outfit knowing scoring once more would see them through on away goals.

When Sykes was blocked inside the area, penalty appeals were ignored and then Josh Daniels, who scored the winner in the first leg, had an effort saved.

As Glenavon pressed there was always the danger that Molde could strike at the other end.

They did just that on 90 minutes.

It was no surprise that Hestad was on the mark again, completing his hat-trick.

Much to Solsjkaer's relief the tie was finally done and dusted with Babacar Sarr adding a fifth goal for Molde for good measure in injury time which was hard on the visitors.

The European journey is over but Glenavon will take a lot from the experience and can now look forward to an appetising opening league game against Linfield at Mourneview Park on August 4.

Belfast Telegraph

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