As the Perth Saints jetted if to Norway for this season’s Euro adventure many statisticians, pundits and fans gave them no more than a sliver of hope against a team of real European pedigree in the shape of Rosenborg, but part of football and being a football fan is allowing yourself to dream just a little and from the moment Frazer Wright guided home a Wotherspoon cross on 19 minutes, St.Johnstone fans were in dreamland.
Rosenberg had started this match as overwhelming favourites due to an impressive European history, which consisted of the record for most consecutive Champions League group stage qualifications which they held recently till none other than Manchester United took that particular title, and a home record which has seen them only lose twice in the previous year. As their dismantling of Crusaders in the previous round proved this was surely to early for the Norwegians to have entered the competition.
As the match kicked off, the 486 travelling fans were in good voice and their team gave them plenty to cheer about in the early exchanges with some measured and composed passing seeing them the most likely of either team to break the deadlock.
When it did come it came from Hasselbaink who pressured the Rosenberg full-back into needlessly conceding a corner and when Wotherspoon swung it into the box, Wright was their to guide it into the far side, there was a split second of disbelief amongst the players but the joy was there to see as they realised they had scored.
Many would have expected a reaction from the home side, but St.Johnstone kept their composure and stuck to the passing game which had served them well in the early stages and continued to looked the better side, with only one smart save from Mannus in the first half the only threat of note from a largely disappointing Rosenborg side.
As expected the home side made a much improved showing in the second half and kept their visitors deep in their own half for much of the opening of the second half, but failed to make any impression on a resolute St.Johnstone defence. This however was no smash and grab from the Perth side as although the expected improvement happened from the home side, as in the first half there was only one momentary scare for St Johnstone when football pinball yards from goal saw the ball trickle passed the post of an under used Alan Mannus.
The night was all about St Johnstone, a first European away win in 128 years over a team unbeaten since April and with only two home defeats in the previous calendar year says much about Tommy Wright’s team’s performance in Norway, guts and heart in abundance coupled with some measured passing and diligence.
A job half done but with an away goal in the first leg sets up an intriguing match in Perth next Thursday.
The draw has been made for the UEFA Europa league third qualifying round and the winners of the Rosenborg v Saints tie will meet either Valetta FC of Malta or FC Minsk of Belarus. That tie is sitting at 1-1 after the first leg in Malta.