DAVID SMITH - Thursday, June 30, 2011
Josh Gatt returned to Molde's starting lineup, playing the full 90 minutes in defense as the recaptured the Tippeligaen top spot with a vital 2-1 road win over Valerenga.
Sean Cunningham was included on the bench for Molde, but did not take part in the action.
With Tromsø and Aalesund out of midweek league action due to Thursday-night Europa League qualifiers, Molde had a prime chance to take sole possession of first place, and they wasted no time before staking their claim.
Pape Pate Diouf fed Davy Claude Angan with a clever through-ball on the left side, and the Ivorian striker cut inside before firing a shot which rolled between Lars Hirschfeld's legs and over the line for the 1-0 lead to the visitors in the fourth minute.
Gatt looked to have opened the door to a Valerenga equalizer just past the half-hour mark, when he appeared to take down Luton Shelton inside the penalty area, but the referee's whistle stayed silent much to the chagrin of the hosts.
Molde then went ahead by two goals in the 43rd minute when Angan ran onto a slick pass from Magnus Wolff Eikrem, and aimed his shot just inside the far post for 2-0.
Valerenga quickly gave the home fans reason for hope as they pulled one back just before halftime, as Fegor Ogude got his head on a corner by Mohammed Fellah to pull one back for the hosts.
Despite the better efforts of both teams, the 2-1 scoreline in favor of the vistors held through the second half, with Molde successfully coming away with the victory.
The result gives Molde a three-point lead atop the Tippeligaen standings, and while both teams immediately below have games in hand, it puts pressure on their competition to play the catch-up game as the season nears its halfway point.
Molde will face a huge test to their credentials in their next outing, as they host third-place Aalesunds FK on Sunday evening.