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Lurgan Blues show mettle to hand Solskjaer a shock

Glenavon 2 Molde 1

By Steve Simpson

What a win for Glenavon.

On an evening when the rest of the football world's eyes were on events in Moscow, for supporters of the Lurgan Blues it was all about a glorious victory at Mourneview Park.

And to grab it, Glenavon produced one of the greatest performances in the club's history, clinching a famous Europa League win over a Molde team managed by Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rhys Marshall and Josh Daniels scored the goals in the 2-1 first leg, first qualifying round win as Gary Hamilton's men showed character and class to come from behind to defeat the team from Norway, who missed a penalty in the dying moments.

The World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia may have had an impact on the size of the crowd, but the Glenavon fans in attendance were enthusiastic in support of their team and the players responded with a superb performance.

A host of scouts were in Lurgan to watch highly rated Molde forward Erling Haaland, son of former Manchester City midfielder Alf Inge Haaland.

The teenage sensation has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but the Glenavon players didn't seem bothered by that, with Andrew Doyle in particular enjoying the battle with the 17-year-old.

Hamilton's side may have been understrength, with influential midfielder Sammy Clingan on honeymoon and James Singleton and Andrew Mitchell on family holidays, though with Mark Sykes and new signing Niall Grace impressing early on, it was clear this would be no walk in the park for Molde.

The visitors took the lead on 36 minutes through Eirik Hestad at a point in the match when Glenavon were starting to build some pressure and put some dangerous moves together.

Lesser sides may have crumbled after going a goal down at that stage but the mid-Ulster men, as they have shown domestically in recent years, have a strong mindset, and that was perfectly illustrated 60 seconds later when they grabbed a deserved equaliser.

Andrew Hall swung in a corner and Marshall headed home to the jubilation of his team-mates and the home fans. What a moment for Marshall. It would not be his only significant contribution in the fixture.

Just before the hour, Marshall did brilliantly collecting the ball in his own half, leaving defenders in his wake before cleverly passing to Daniels, who found the net with a clinical Solskjaer type finish.

As expected, Molde pushed forward in search of a leveller only to see Glenavon goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey and those in front of him stand firm.

With just four minutes left, however, the visitors were awarded a penalty when substitute Chima was adjudged to have been fouled in the crowded box. Up stepped Fredrik Aursnes, who fired wide.

Glenavon had won it, and they had done it for themselves and Irish League football.

The return leg is in Norway next Thurday, when Hamilton's players will aim to finish the job at the Aker Stadion.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marshall, Marron, Doyle, Muir, Hall, Sykes, Grace, Daniels (Jenkins, 90 mins), Murray (King, 90 mins), Donnelly (Norton, 72 mins). Unused subs: Taylor, Harmon, O'Mahony, Hamilton.

Molde: Linde, Remmer, Forren, Gabrielsen, Haugen, Hussain (Chukwu, 60 mins), Sarr, Aursnes, Hestad, Haaland (Svendsen, 81 mins), Strand (Brustad, 70 mins). Unused subs: Ranmark, Gregersen, Mostrom, Wadji.

Man of the Match: Rhys Marshall

Referee: Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen (Denmark)

Match Rating: 8/10

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