Below the pale, Ebba Wieder's first-half strike was enough for Rosengård against Romanian champions, Olimpia Cluj in the first-leg of the UEFA Women's Champions League round-of-32 tie.
The match started off on a slow note, the Swedes trying to get the lay of the land and Olimpia adjusting to their lofty opposition. Glódís Viggósdóttir saw the first real chance for either when her header landed on the roof of Jillian McVicker’s net before Cluj had the best passage of play up to that point. Alexandra Lunca chased the ball down the right flank, out-gunning Ali Riley to take it to the by-line, her cross too much for Cristina Carp, Adina Giurgui on hand to mop up the scraps and curl the ball towards the far post, the shape just lacking as it rolled wide.
Seemingly jolted into action, Rosengård flocked forward with more purpose and pulled the defence left and right as white shirts crowded the box, Sanne Troelsgaard unmarked as she lashed an effort against the bar. However, the game soon fell back into the same early rhythm, FCR prodding but not looking as sharp in attack as they should have been, the early ball for Lunca up the right consistently on for the hosts.
With good chances few and far between for the former Swedish champions, the opener came from an unlikely source in teenager Ebba Wieder. The ball worked out to the midfielder to scoop over the box and curl into the top right corner, the goal one of the rare moments of quality in the match.
More laborious play
The ball continued to zip across the pitch at the Cluj Arena but the play didn’t follow suit, attacks consistently broken up as both teams struggled against each other. A corner at the end of the first-half typified the game, Olimpia unable to really do anything with the ball at the set-piece, the visitors stronger in the air and in the way of all they could punt at goal. Having regained possession there was little Rosengård could do with it, opting to ping it across their backline in stoppage, no need to overexert and press for a way through.
Cluj were gifted a chance early in the second-half, again the build-up came from Lunca, the attacker chasing a listing ball before attempting to feed it into Carp, Anita Asante in the way to block but the ball deflected back to Carp. The attacker swung her boot at is as Asante and Erin McLeod wrapped around her, the shot not enough to creep around or under the Canadian and FCR regained possession.
Rosengård fell back into step, showing their pedigree but not their quality, Ella Masar’s deflected effort just before the hour enough to bring about an uninspiring corner. The set-pieces at the other end as insipid and routinely short though their very existence showed the hosts were still in it. Rosengård given a stern reminder when Lunca shimmied around her marker before laying the ball through for Hannah Leinert, the attacker able to slip behind Viggósdóttir unnoticed. Through on goal, all Leinert had to do was beat McLeod, maybe unexpecting to be in such an advantageous position she rather fell on the ball as she attempted to connect, skewing it harmlessly wide.
Rosengård see it out
A superb streaking run from Riley could have brought about the second goal, her cross just right for Troelsgaard to chest down and take aim, a last-ditch block all to deny her, a deflected effort from the Dane a minute later gratefully gathered by McVicker. Rosengård’s attempts at least more clinical than Cluj’s, the Romanians panicky and wasteful whenever they found themselves in adventurous positions, a rush of blood enough to keep McLeod a relative spectator.
Another miscue from Lunca in the box brought about groans, the entire match wheezing to its conclusion, Olimpia well in it but refusing to carry a real goal-threat from the outset – the Swedes unrelenting with their own uninspiring recent brand of football.
A hopeful punt over her shoulder very nearly brought about a world-class equaliser from Leinert, McLeod at full stretch as the ball dropped through the sky to cannon the bar, the modest home crowd sparking back into life. Though it was all too little too late, the match a foregone conclusion despite the seconds that still ticked down, Olimpia at least bright enough to limit Rosengård’s options in attack.
An uninspiring win but a win and goal on the board for FCR nevertheless, the team always favourites should be able to play to their strengths in Malmö next week however, Cluj will know that they’re still alive in the tie and if they can find confidence in themselves could yet pull off a shock.