Belfast Telegraph

Rosenborg are as tough as Celtic, insists Waterworth

Tall order: Andy Waterworth rates Rosenborg among his strongest European opponents
Tall order: Andy Waterworth rates Rosenborg among his strongest European opponents

By Steven Beacom

Andy Waterworth believes the Rosenborg team that Linfield will face in the Champions League tonight are every bit as good as the Celtic side that took on David Healy's men in the competition two years ago.

Back in 2017, the Hoops, then managed by Brendan Rodgers, won 2-0 at Windsor Park in the first leg just as Rosenborg did in last week's first qualifying round opener.

On home turf a week later the Bhoys claimed a 4-0 victory. Linfield will hope to avoid a similar defeat in Norway this evening.

Experienced striker Waterworth has played in Europe numerous times and was hugely impressed by the latest opposition who harbour ambitions of reaching the Champions League group stages this season.

"They are well into their league at the moment and I thought Rosenborg were as slick as I've played in Europe for a long time," stated Waterworth.

"At Windsor Park in the first leg, they were very comfortable in possession and we were working our socks off so when we had the ball you could see we were quite tired. When you are tired you take that extra touch and maybe we lacked that bit of belief in the final third."

Waterworth continued: "When you are playing against a team of that quality, if you take too many risks you can be hit for four or five. The two goals they scored were preventable but for most of the match I felt we did really well out of possession as a team.

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"That pleased us because there were a couple of domestic games last season when we were 1-0 up against Ballymena United and Crusaders and we defended really well as a team and the manager said we could do it.

"To put the first game in context, I thought Rosenborg were as good as Celtic and we know it is going to be a big test for us in the second leg away from home."

The Blues arrived in Norway on Monday and trained at Lerkendal Stadium last night. Healy's players didn't have far to travel with their hotel overlooking the venue.

Waterworth started in the home leg and boss Healy waxed lyrical after the game about his striker's work-rate.

It will be intriguing to see if Northern Ireland's record goalscorer starts new signing Shayne Lavery in attack this time around given that he former Everton ace came on as a second half substitute in the 2-0 loss in Belfast. Despite going into the return a couple of goals behind, Healy is refusing to give up on a stunning comeback.

"I would never think the tie is over until we've played both legs," said Healy.

"Our attitude, effort and commitment was top class in the first leg and we'll be looking for the same in Norway.

"Obviously Rosenborg are a very good side and we know how difficult it is going to be but myself and the players are looking forward to the challenge.

"We have to win 3-1 or 3-0 to go through and, while obviously that is a big ask, we have to approach the game with hope and positivity."

Even if Linfield's participation in the competition ends tonight, their European adventure will go on. Defeat will mean dropping into the Europa League and a clash with HB Torshavn from the Faroe Islands, whose 2-2 draw with HJK last night confirmed their own exit from the Champions League following a 5-2 aggregate loss.

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