James Leke saw 98 minutes of action in Molde‘s 6-5 penalty shoutout win over Qarabag FK in the third qualifying round of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League at the AEK Arena, Cyprus on Wednesday evening.
Coach Erling Moe handed Leke his 11th start of the season and the former Bridge Boys’ striker made an instant impact.
The 27-year-old forward created the first chance of the game, setting up Erling Knudtzon with a pass, but the Norwegian winger failed to control the ball.
The host controlled a larger proceedings of the first half, but couldn’t convert the available goal-bound opportunities.
Leke and his teammates charged forward after the break, but failed to get an opening.
The former Aalesund striker paved way for Mathis Bolly seven minutes before the end of first half extra time.
Three minutes later, Molde got a chance to decide the match from the spot, after Qarabag conceded a penalty, but Etzaz Hussain had his left-footed effort saved by the keeper.
Both teams played out a stalemate after two hours of action and were able to convert their first five kicks during penalty shootout.
However, Kristoffer Haugen scored Molde’s sixth kick, while Andreas Linde saved Qarabaq’s Badavi Huseynov kick to hand the Norwegian Eliteserien defending champion a passage to the Champions League fourth round playoff.
The win secured Leke’s Molde a UEFA Europa League group stage qualification and the Town of Roses club will face Ferencváros TC in the UEFA Champions League fourth qualifying round playoff, for a place in the group stage.
Molde will host the Hungarian club at Aker Stadion in the first leg on September 22, before traveling to Groupama Arená, Budapest for the return leg seven days later.
Leke is Molde’s leading scorer on the domestic scene with seven Eliteserien goals in 13 matches this season. Last season, his 17 goals in 28 league games helped Molde claim its fourth topflight title.