David McMillan scored his eighth European goal to give Dundalk the lead against Rosenborg BK at Oriel Park on Wednesday night, but an equaliser by Tore Reginiussen two minutes before the break ensured this Champions League second qualifying round tie ended all square.
Rosenborg have long been held up as an example of what the smaller teams can achieve on the European stage but Dundalk are proving every bit as impressive in their Euro adventures given the gulf in resources available to these two teams.
The expectation before kick-off would have been that Rosenborg, leading the Norwegian Eliteserien by five points after 16 matches, would be a tough challenge for Dundalk despite the Louth side’s impressive league form over the last month.
But from the first whistle the Lilywhites established a high-tempo, attacking game that had the visitors firmly on the back foot. Robbie Benson and Patrick McEkleney were a constant worry to the Norwegians, pushing through the middle and keeping possession with flair and determination. Michael Duffy on the left wing was equally impressive, always looking to get on the ball and causing a good deal of havoc when he got it.
Dundalk’s first chance came as early as the second minute when Benson bundled a cross from Dane Massey narrowly wide. Three minutes later, Duffy caught a loose ball in the Rosenborg area and almost scooped it into the net, denied only by a smart reaction save from Anders Hansen.
The breakthrough came on 18 minutes, again through a move down Dundalk’s left flank. Duffy was the provider, curling a ball to the edge of the six-yard box where David McMillan flicked his header past Hansen and into the goal.
Dundalk continued to play extremely well for almost the entire first half but in the final five minutes before the break there was just a sense that Rosenborg were beginning to settle.
And with 43 minutes played they levelled thanks to a poked effort from centre-back Tore Ruginiussen after he beat Brian Gartland to a free from the left by Eggen Hedenstad.
Stephen Kenny’s men found it harder to maintain pressure on Rosenborg in the second period. They continued to seek out forward momentum but there was less spring in the home legs and when they did get forward they found the visitors' defence in more resolute mood than they had been in the opening forty-five minutes.
In fact, despite having less of the ball, it was the Norwegian side that created more chances, though few of those caused genuine concern to Gary Rogers and his back four. Substitute Milan Jevtovic played Mike Jensen in on 53 minutes but Rogers was alive to the danger and smothered the ball.
On the hour Anders Konradsen managed a shot on goal but it scuttled wide with Rogers watching it all the way. Indeed, it took 22 minutes of the second half for the home team to fashion a genuine opening when McMillan sent a free header over the bar from a corner.
In truth, the bulk of the half was played in an uneasy stalemate and it took the introduction of Dylan Connolly (in place of Duffy on the left) to give Dundalk the spark needed to excite expectation of a winner. He almost got on the end of a John Mountney cross moments after coming on but despite the clear intentions of the home side they never managed to provide the kind of ball necessary for Connolly to open up the Norwegians.
Despite the urgings of their manager and the late introduction of Ciaran Kilduff there was to be no late drama and a draw was, in the end, a fair result for both sides. So it’s all to do for Stephen Kenny’s men as they travel to Norway in a weeks time level on aggregate but having conceded n away goal.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund (Paddy Barrett 64), Dane Massey; John Mountney, Robbie Benson, Chris Shields, Michael Duffy (Dylan Connolly 72); Pat McEleney; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 81).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Sean Hoare, Stephen O’Donnell, Jamie McGrath.
Rosenborg BK: Andre Hansen; Vegar Hedenstad, Johan Bjordal, Tore Reginiussen, Jorgen Skjelvik; Mike Jensen, Anders Konradsen, Matthias Vilhjalmsson; Pal Helland (Milan Jevtovic 42), Nicklas Bendtner, Fredrik Midtsjo (Yann-Erik de Lanlay 81).
Subs not used: Arild Ostbo (gk), Alex Gersbach, Marius Lundemo, Birger Meling, Jacob Rasmussen.
Referee: Radu Petrescu (Romania).
Attendance: 3,000 (sellout).
Extratime Man of the Match: Michael Duffy (Dundalk).