Following a 3-0 defeat in the first leg of their UEFA Youth League campaign, Hamilton Academical were seemingly down and out as they welcomed Norwegian Giants Molde to New Douglas Park.
Despite this, Accies fought all adversities they faced, including an early goal to raise a serious question of a comeback.
It wasn’t to be for the Lanarkshire side however and it took a Molde screamer to see them progress through to the next round to face AZ Alkmaar.
From the first whistle, the game was end to end and it only took five minutes for Hamilton defender Aaran Preston to get called into action as he cleared the ball from a dangerous Molde corner. Accies game plan was clear and they exploited the Molde fullbacks expertly emphasising their desire to attack the wings. Christopher McGinn was crucial in this game plan and in the ninth minute, his fast pace and tricky feet won his team a corner.
Set Pieces were due to be a struggle for Accies as Molde were the taller side between the two. With this in mind, Accies made a point of playing balls short from set pieces and forcing Molde out of the box to press them before making the cross. This tactic was extremely effective and caused Norwegian goalkeeper Mads Myklebust a lot of issues early on, including him having to punch a floating ball over the bar in the tenth minute to avoid Ben Black nodding it in at the back post.
For the most part, Accies dominated possession but Molde were very patient and worked well off the ball to gain it back. In the 11th minute tireless pressing by midfielder Gustav Nyheim saw him regain possession in the middle of the pitch and drive down to goal. Going alone he used his strength to hold off opponents and tidy feet to great a gap in the defence, before unleashing a low driven shot into the bottom corner to give Molde the Lead.
At 4-0 down on aggregate it would’ve been easy for Hamilton to drop their heads and gift Molde the fixture, but quite amazingly they did the opposite, they further managed to dominate the wide areas and their first real opportunity came just three minutes after going down. Sam Spences corner into the box dropped down to the feet of Lewis Latona who saw his shot from the edge of the area blocked by Filip Kristoffersen.
Accies press intensified throughout the first half, forcing back possession all over the pitch and chances were starting to come thick and fast for the lads from Lanarkshire. Patrick Meechan was becoming a nightmare to deal with for the Molde defenders his header from a Kalala cross flashed wide in the 17th minute. And then 10 minutes later he forced Myklebust into a wonderful save at his far post.
Another player who was becoming a nightmare for Molde was Christopher McGinn. His breakaway drive from a Molde corner saw him get dragged down left of the Molde penalty box. McGinn’s free-kick was whipped into a dangerous area but cleared by a Molde defender, Sam Spence latched onto the clearance and redelivered the ball into the back-post where McGinn was dragged down as he waited for the ball to drop. The Penalty was awarded with 38 Minutes on the Clock and Ben Black confidently converted from the spot to tie the match.
Accies weren’t done there as five minutes later Chris Neeson’s cross from the right wing found Liam Morgan, who knocked back across goal to give Ben Black an open net to head into.
With the aggregate score being slashed from 4-0 to 4-2 going into the second half, the comeback was in sight and the Accies fans could sense it too, getting right behind the U19s.
Accies started the Second Half extremely fast and within two minutes Chris Neeson had already seen his header sail over the bar. Accies were relentless after this, giving Molde no time to think, and just two minutes later, after smart play from Neeson and Black, Kalala was found at the right-hand side of the box. He drove past Oscar Misfjord, before drilling a low ball into Meechan who fired home from close range.
Molde had spells after Meechan gave Accies a 3-1 lead but nothing materialised.
Accies continued to dominate into the later stages of the second half and in the 62nd minute, Christopher McGinn’s phenomenal run down the left wing was met by an even better cross, which found the feet of Meechan, who released a ferocious shot which smashed off the hand of a Molde Player. Ben Black once again stood over the ball 12 yards out with the weight of an Accies comeback on his shoulders. Once again the Scot slams home his penalty and completes an incredible hat trick.
Hamilton were now level on Aggregate, and the atmosphere was palpable.
Molde started to show their class however in the 70th minute as they began to counter Hamilton’s attacks. Leon Juberg-Hovland burst from his own half into Accies territory before being brought down just outside the area. Niklas Odegard fired high and wide, but Molde weren’t finished. Three minutes later an almost identical counter-attack this time by Misfjord on the left-hand side, left Molde with a three-on-three situation bearing down on Hamilton’s goal. Misfjord played his pass into Juberg-Hovland who cushioned it close into the feet of Andreas Myklebust, without thought Myklebust pulled the trigger from 25 yards out, smashing it home to book Molde’s slot in the next round.
Hamilton Academical Player of the Match: Ben Black
It was a very impressive performance from the youngster. His hat trick was the cherry on the cake, however his play all over the pitch and the positions he was getting himself into made him a constant threat. To convert not one, but two penalties when the pressure of a comeback is weighted on your shoulders takes real courage. A performance that deserved the result.
Molde Player of the Match: Leon Juberg-Hovland
He had to be patient as his team struggled to hold possession for long periods, but every time he had the ball he made a positive decision that benefited his side. He led from the front, picking up an assist, but he also defended excellently when called upon.
Hamilton Academical Player of the Match: Black’s second penalty
All stemming from a stunning run by Christopher McGinn, it was a well-worked team move on the back of a relentless press. The Penalty itself wasn’t too bad either, with the opportunity to complete the comeback in touching distance, Black Slotted home like it was a training drill.
Molde Magic Moment: Andreas Myklebust’s Goal
In the space of 5 minutes, Molde realised that they could capitalise on Hamilton, soaking up the pressure of the Accies attack and then distributing the ball quickly to the flanks. Oscar Msfjord’s run was breathtaking as he eased by two Accies defenders and distributed quickly and smartly inside to Juberg-Hovland who noticed his teammate was in a better position and knocked it onto him. Myklebust’s finish itself was truly jaw-dropping and left even Hamilton fans applauding.
Hamilton Academical U19s
2. Sam Spence
3. Christopher McGinn
4. Cian Newbury
5. Chris Neeson
6. Lewis Latona
7. Liam Morgan
9. Ben Black
10. Patrick Meechan
17. Aaran Preston
20. Gravine Kalala
21. Reece Murray
8. Lewis Hodgkiss
12. Anthony Carroll
15. Kyle Haggerty
16. Lennon Lyons
18. Marcus Syme
19. Jared Lyons
34. Mads Myklebust
2. Fredrik Nyheim
4. Aleksander Jelsa
5. Filip Kristoffersen
7. Andreas Myklebust
10. Leon Juberg-Hovland
11. Magnus Solheim
14. Adrian Viken
21. Oscar Misfjord
47. Niklas Ødegǎrd
57. Gustav Nyheim
12. Kristoffer Grüner Bygland
8. Jonathan Fugelsnes
15. Faveur Ndayizeye
16. Hǎkon Dyvik
17. Linus Juberg-Hovland
18. Christian Andre Sunde
19. Magnus Løvik
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