Norwegian side FC Molde FK shook off the rust of 61 days without a competitive match to stage an unexpected comeback against German Europa League representatives TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Thursday.
Kraichgauer striker Munus Dabbur came within a whisker of scoring a hat trick after both a disallowed goal and missed penalty. In the end, the neutral-ground fixture ended in a 3-3 draw.
In front of stands filled completely with cardboard cutouts of fans at the Estadio de la Cerámica in Villarreal, an injury depleted Hoffenheim squad racked up three "away goals" in the first leg of their round-of-32 Europa League draw against Norway's Molde FK. The match was moved to Spain as current travel restrictions preclude visiting teams from entering the Scandinavian country.
In point of fact, there has been no professional football played in Norway since the the 2020 Eliteserien wrapped on three days before Christmas. The current Norwegian runners up caught caught off guard early when TSG striker Munus Dabbur latched onto a Mijat Gacinovic flicked header on to finish from close range in the 8th minute.
After dominating much of the initial proceedings, it appeared as if Germany's Sinsheimers were about to succumb to more horrible injury luck. Gacinovic twisted his ankle and had to be subbed off in the the 26th. Two minutes later, however, Gacinovic's replacement Pavel Kaderabek launched a gorgeous bowing cross to Dabbur. The Israeli attacker finished calmly to complete his brace.
Molde was able to pull one back off a corner in the 41st, but Christoph Baumgartner restored the two-goal advantage before it was time to head into the tunnel. This time Dabbur supplied the assist on what looked to be a historic night for him. It appeared as if he had his hat trick ten minutes after the restart, but the goal was called back after fellow striker Ihlas Bebou was adjudged offside in the lead-up.
Dabbur soon got another chance. After Sargis Adamyan was brought down in the box in the 61st, Dabbur strode to the penalty spot hoping to put the game to bed. FK goalkeeper Andreas Linda nevertheless guessed correctly and stopped the low-left corner shot with an impressive sprawl.
This miss would come back to haunt his team. Hoffenheim has been up to that point superior in every aspect of the match. Within a four minute span, striker Erik Ulland Andersen and young Ivorian substitute David Datro Fofana scored two goals to draw their team level. Fofana nearly scored the winner six minutes after his equaliser, stopped only by strong defending from Chris Richards.
The second-leg of the round is scheduled to take place on week from today in Sinsheim.