Though still very much alive in their tie, Cliftonville face the sternest of tests to prolong their Europa League adventure after slipping to a narrow defeat against Nordsjælland last night.
Andreas Olsen registered the only goal of the game in the first-half and, though they were unable to trouble the Danes’ keeper as much as they would have liked, the Reds got better and better as the game progressed and will travel to Farum next week believing they can get the goal they need to cause a Euro upset.
They began brightly last night but, after Conor McMenamin went close with an early header, found themselves behind when Olsen converted Godsway Donyo’s delivery with just 19 minutes on the clock.
That could well have been the signal for floodgates to open but the Reds rediscovered their composure and, having evidently been encouraged forward by boss Barry Gray at the break, were much the better side in the second-half.
Even so, they were still indebted to goalkeeper Brian Neeson for a wonderful flying save to keep Karlo Bartolec at bay minutes before the defender tried his luck with a fierce volley that sailed over the top.
Cliftonville’s best chance came just past the hour when Levi Ives’ quick free-kick caught Nordsjælland napping and Conor McMenamin raced through.
He completely miscued his left-footed drive but the ball almost fell favourably for Garry Breen, who was unable to make the connection he wanted with his back-post header.
A timely Andreas Skovgaard interception stiopped Joe Gormley working his way into space and, as the Reds drove forward, they were almost killed off 13 minutes from time when substitute Martin Sonder Frese attempted to seize upon a Mathias Jensen pass but, with just Neeson to beat, fell over his own feet, allowing the home keeper to gather and the chance was lost.
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Gormley, McMenamin. Subs: Dunne, Garrett (McMenamin, 74 mins), McDonald, Catney (McGovern, 62 mins), Lavery, A Donnelly, McNulty.
Nordsjælland: Larsen, Bartolec, Nelsson, Pedersen, Rygaard Jensen, M Jensen, Donyoh, Tiedemann Hansen, Skovgaard, Olsen, Damsgaard. Subs: P Jensen, Jenssen, Rasmussen (Olsen, 57 mins), Aaquist, Strunck (Rygaard Jensen, 86 mins), Frese (Donyoh, 71 mins), Antwi.
Referee: Sandor Szabo (Hungary)