"We rushed and panicked," concluded Vítor Pereira after Fenerbahçe's shock home loss to Molde, whose pre-match billing as Group A's "weakest link" proved misleading.
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A day before Molde's 3-1 UEFA Europa League victory at Fenerbahçe, visiting coach Erling Moe was asked by Turkish reporters about his side's status as Group A's supposed "weakest link". Moe shrugged and said the journalists were in no position to judge a team they had not seen yet.
It is unlikely anyone will make the mistake of underestimating the Norwegian champions again after they comprehensively beat Fenerbahçe on Thursday. Molde were not, perhaps, the most creative outfit that ever visited Istanbul, but they were calm, well organised and supremely composed. "We defended well and in a clever way," Moe noted. "We exploited the chances that we knew would come on the break."
To begin with, Fenerbahçe seemed likely to overwhelm their guests, Robin van Persie picked out in the box on more than one occasion, while fellow Manchester United alumnus Nani looked lively. However, after those early opportunities came to nothing, the pressure on the hosts to perform started to play into the hands of Molde.
"We knew it was going to be tough to start with," Moe observed. "Fenerbahçe had a higher tempo and moved the ball faster than we are used to in Norway. But we knew if we could get through the first 15 minutes, we would do well."
That they did. Nani struck back soon after Tommy Høiland put Molde ahead from the penalty spot, but a similarly patient approach paid dividends after the break too, 40-year-old midfielder Daniel Hestad – "a legend in Molde," according to Moe – helping to control the game. "He is a smart guy who can take care of the team and makes smart choices with the ball," the coach said. "He is a guy who inspires confidence here and in a place like this, you need confidence."
Vítor Pereira knows that only too well, having watched Fenerbahçe's nerve fail them after going behind for a second time. "We have the experience in our side to change a game like this, but after the second goal we never managed to play like a team," noted the 47-year-old, who won a domestic double in Greece last season with Olympiacos.
Fenerbahçe need not despair: their explosive style will doubtless unhinge other sides in Group A, but Hestad and Molde rolled with the punches and gave the Yellow Canaries an object leason in measured football. "We lost our cool," Pereira conceded. "We rushed and panicked. We have to learn from this."