How Hearts fared in Norway as Rosenborg European tie sits on a knife edge for the return leg at Tynecastle

Late goal could prove pivotal in Conference League qualifier
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Storm Hans battered much of Norway this week but it was a Rosenborg whirlwind in Trondheim which overwhelmed Hearts in the first half of this Europa Conference League qualifying tie. Svein Maalen’s Eliteserien side scored twice but Lawrence Shankland’s late header secured Hearts a potentially-vital lifeline for the return leg at Tynecastle Park next week.

The Edinburgh club produced a more spirited second-half display and were rewarded with a goal which leaves them 2-1 down on aggregate after the first leg of this third qualifying round. Shankland marked his 28th birthday in fine fashion and ignited hope that the scoreline can be overturned in seven days’ time. Rosenborg peaked in the first half after being given time and space to dictate play, something Hearts recovered from after the break.

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Orchestrating the dominant and dynamic home display was a 16-year-old kid. Sverre Nypan, born just 500 yards from Rosenborg’s Lerkendal Stadion, is in his first season as a regular starter with his local club. His midfield performance contained everything you would normally see in a 30-year-old veteran. There were assists for both goals, invention, industry, good decisions and no hint of nerves on the European stage.

Emil Frederiksen and Jayden Nelson both scored thanks to Nypan’s expertise. Rosenborg are 18 games into their league campaign and it showed compared to Hearts’ one Premiership fixture to date. Beni Baningime started in midfield for the first time since March 2022 and, perhaps understandably after such a long injury absence, lacked competitive sharpness. Many of his team-mates simply couldn’t cope with Rosenborg’s tempo in a quite breathtaking first 45 minutes. However, they raised their game in an encouraging second half.

Atmosphere began building early inside the Lerkendal. Hearts fans partied all day Wednesday and Thursday in Trondheim’s city centre before heading south to this modernised 21,400-capacity venue. Around 700 left Edinburgh but travel disruption due to Storm Hans meant some did not arrive. Those who did were determined to make their voices heard with a repertoire of songs accompanied by a drum and megaphone. The noisy bank of locals in the Ovre Ost ensured the travelling Gorgie Ultras had competition in the decibel stakes.

Hearts set out their stall to attack their Norwegian hosts with pace. Yutaro Oda and Alan Forrest were wingers flanking the creative Alex Lowry, who made his first start since arriving at Tynecastle on loan from Rangers. Rosenborg made three changes from their weekend league victory over Haugesund. The most notable was Andre Hansen replacing Sander Tangvik in goal.

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Strikes at the Hearts goal from midfielders Carlo Holse and Sverre Nypan in the opening moments illustrated the home side’s ability to prise open an opposition defence. They displayed it again to score first on 14 minutes. Cammy Devlin was cautioned for fouling Hose in midfield and Rosenborg worked the resultant free-kick out to Nypan. The talented teenager evaded Nathaniel Atkinson on the left side of the penalty box to lift a cross to the back post, where Frederiksen forced it into the net.

Rosenborg v Hearts in the Lerkendal Stadion in Norway. Pic: National WorldRosenborg v Hearts in the Lerkendal Stadion in Norway. Pic: National World
Rosenborg v Hearts in the Lerkendal Stadion in Norway. Pic: National World

It was precisely the start Hearts wanted to avoid. Goalkeeper Zander Clark produced a save to prevent the dangerous Canadian winger Nelson making it 2-0 ten minutes later. Then came a curling low shot from midfielder Tobias Borkeeiet which finished just wide of Clark’s right post. Hearts looked overly passive and in need of some energy to match Rosenborg’s zip.

The Norwegians quickly fastened onto clearances to keep pressure on their guests, with Nelson in particular looking their greatest threat on the left flank. He picked up the ball and ran at Atkinson several times in the first half. He then scored the second goal in stoppage-time before the interval. A surging run from midfield by Nypan left Beni Baningime in its wake and ended with an intelligent square pass to the unmarked Nelson for a straightforward conversion from 10 yards.

At 2-0 down, Hearts were toiling as the half-time whistle sounded. Alan Forrest had their only attempt on goal in the first period. They did keep possession of the ball for spells without managing to create much in the way of scoring opportunities. Their build-up was more patient but needed a step up in intensity. Lowry saw a lot of the ball in his advanced midfield role, however Borkeeiet marked him tightly and gave him little space to breathe, let alone manoeuvre into space.

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Baningime did not appear for the second half after appearing to pull up with an injury. Haring took his place and made a difference. Lowry was refused a strong penalty claim after the restart. He sprinted on to Alex Cochrane’s long ball as Hansen emerged from his goal. The keeper barged into the young Scot without connecting with the ball, but Romanian referee Andrei Chivulete signalled no infringement.

Hearts’ overall second-half display was a definite improvement on the first. There was a European debut for Riccarton youth academy graduate Aidan Denholm when he replaced Devlin. More of the play was taking place inside Rosenborg’s half of the field as the game entered its final 15 minutes. Hearts were pushing for a goal to increase their chances of overturning this deficit, but again scoring chances were at a premium.

On 78 minutes, a moment of quality hauled them back into this tie. Kingsley’s delicate cross was headed back across goal and into the bottom corner of the net by Shankland for a priceless strike. That sent the away support into raptures. They will pack Tynecastle next week aiming to intimidate any and every Rosenborg employee in what will be a fascinating encounter.

Rosenborg (4-3-3): Hansen, Andersson, Reitan, Jenssen, Pereira; Holse, Borkeeiet, Nypan (Skjelbred 88); Frederiksen, Thorvaldsson (Wiedesheim-Paul 62), Nelson (Vaananen 74).

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Hearts (4-2-3-1): Clark; Atkinson, Kent, Rowles, Cochrane; Devlin (Denholm 70), Baningime (Haring 46); Oda (Boyce 84), Lowry (Grant 62), Forrest (Kingsley 62); Shankland.

Referee: Andrei Chivulete (Romania).

Attendance: 11,882.