Ian Woan's precious away goal and Mark Crossley's breathtaking saves limited the damage of Nottingham Forest's first defeat in 19 matches as they took their first tentative steps back into Europe after an absence of nearly 11 years.
As it is, Forest will start the second leg at the City Ground in two weeks' time as favourites to go through after Woan's 36th-minute goal, which means they need only a 1-0 success for an aggregate win. But against the superior Swedes, they will be thankful for the opportunity after Malmo - the team Forest beat in the European Cup final 16 years ago - bombarded them both before and after Woan's strike.
"We will have to do much better than that in the second leg," Frank Clark, the Forest manager said. "On balance, a 2-1 scoreline flatters us because Malmo were better in every department over 90 minutes. I'm quite disappointed with us. Around about the time of our goal we had our best spell, but it only lasted 15 or 20 minutes."
Jorgen Pettersson and Jens Fjellstrom tore the Forest defence to ribbons, with veteran Robert Prytz and his midfield partner Anders Andersson pulling the strings.
Crossley kept the game alive for Forest as he stood up to Malmo's commanding pressure. In the ninth minute, he dived full length to push away Anders Andersson's 20-yard blast and then somehow regained his feet in time to block Fjellstrom's follow-up shot. Two minutes later, he held on to a thundering 30-yard shot by Fjellstrom and then, after Steve Chettle gave the ball away to Prytz, Forest were lucky to survive a lightning one-two with Anders Andersson before Prytz fired over.
Forest lost their captain, Stuart Pearce, with a hamstring injury midway through the first half, while striker Kevin Campbell was also taken off early in the second period - the back injury that made him doubtful before the start not standing up to the often frenzied action.
The Malmo breakthrough came when Fjellstrom's deep cross was helped on by full-back Niclas Nylen for Joakim Persson to sweep home the equaliser. And in the 71st minute, Anders Andersson struck with a ripping drive from 25 yards that flew beyond Crossley's despairing dive.
Malmo: Fedel; Nylen, Olsson, Wirmola, T Persson, D Andersson, J Persson, A Andersson, Fjellstrom (Thylander, 79), Prytz, Pettersson.
Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Lyttle, Pearce (Bart-Williams, 23), Cooper, Chettle, Gemmill, Phillips, Stone, Campbell (Lee, 53), Roy, Woan.
Referee: H Krug (Ger).Reuse content