Belfast Telegraph

Rosenborg turn up heat to leave the Blues with uphill fight

Linfield 0 Rosenborg 2

Andy Waterworth is pursued by Tore Reginiussen
Andy Waterworth is pursued by Tore Reginiussen
Damage done: Mike Jensen drills in the opener last night

By Steven Beacom

Linfield's Champions League hopes are all but over for another year.

The Blues will need a miracle in Norway next week after Rosenborg won comfortably at Windsor Park in the opening leg of the first qualifying round tie.

The miracle is not going to happen.

After Rosenborg skipper Mike Jensen and Alexander Soderlund scored goals in either half to give the visitors a 2-0 away win last night, David Healy's side will do well to keep the aggregate score down.

The last time Linfield were in the Champions League they lost to Celtic two years ago. Rosenborg were equally as tough. Mind you, their starting XI, in front of 2,710 spectators, had 114 caps between them, so the difference in class shouldn't come up as a major surprise.

When Linfield are officially knocked out of the competition in Norway, that won't be the end of their European adventure this season as the losers at this stage of the tournament, which was won by Liverpool just last month, enter the Europa League.

Waiting for the Blues there should be HB Torshavn, who lost 3-0 to HJK Helsinki from Finland in their first leg Champions League clash.

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Linfield will fancy taking on the team from the Faroe Islands and can expect to make some progress in Europe's secondary event.

Healy decided to give one of his high-profile summer signings a starting spot, while the other was on the bench.

Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Shayne Lavery had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes while French midfielder Bastien Hery, recruited from Waterford this week, was given the nod from the first whistle.

Teenage sensation Charlie Allen had been named in Linfield's squad but the 15-year-old midfielder, being chased by a number of top cross-channel clubs, didn't make the matchday 18.

Linfield made a bright start, creating the first opportunity of the game on three minutes when Niall Quinn headed over after fine approach work from Jordan Stewart and Chris Casement.

Rosenborg's opening sign of intent arrived moments later when Marius Lundemo smacked just wide from 30 yards.

The impressive Tore Reginiussen, a winner of 26 Norway caps, fired against the post from distance. Linfield goalkeeper Gareth Deane was relieved when Gjermund Asen blasted the rebound over the bar.

If that was concerning for the home fans, former Paris St Germain youth team player Hery was a source of encouragement. All hair and touch, the 27-year-old earned applause from the Linfield faithful when he showed intelligence and awareness to glide out of trouble.

Not so pleasing was how Linfield conceded the opening goal on 22 minutes. For starters, Healy's defence should have done better to prevent a deep left-wing cross finding Rosenborg skipper Jensen inside the box. Credit to the Dane, though, because when the chance came his way he was clinical, striking a low right-foot effort into the net.

Lavery entered the fray for his competitive Linfield debut on 68 minutes at a time when Rosenborg were pushing on to turn the screw.

Sixty seconds later that pressure turned into reward when the Norwegians doubled their lead with a slick move that ended with Anders Konradsen crossing to Soderlund to deliver a neat finish.

Game over. Tie over.

Late on, the Linfield defence and Deane battled manfully to keep the scoreline to 2-0, while at the other end lively Lavery struck wide and Andy Waterworth had the ball in the net only for an offside flag to intervene.

It was not Linfield's night. Rosenborg were just too good.

• Dundalk held Riga to a scoreless draw in their Champions League first qualifying round tie at Oriel Park.

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