Dundalk will have to stage a repeat of the club’s exploits against Icelandic opposition back in 1981 if they are to keep their European dreams alive against KA Akureyri at Oriel Park next week.
Stephen O’Donnell’s side find themselves two goals behind after the first leg in Iceland on Thursday night where the Lilwyhites were punished by a combination of sloppy defending and clinical finishing.
Forty-two years ago, Dundalk returned home from the Land of Ice and Fear trailing 2-1 after Jim McLaughlin’s side was beaten 2-1 by Fram in the old Cup Winners Cup.
Inspired by the home crowd, McLaughlin’s men turned it around in the second leg, hammering Fram 4-0 to advance, and Dundalk will need to produce a similar night at Oriel Park next week to book a probable third qualifying round showdown with Club Brugges, who beat Aarhus 3-0 in their first leg tie in Belgium on Thursday.
Dundalk almost got off to a dream start in Framvollur when Daniel Kelly drove down the right and picked out Johannes Yli-Kokko but he couldn’t get enough power on his flick to beat Kristijan Jajalo.
The hosts showed their first glimpse of danger in the 15th minute when Rodri saw an effort brilliantly deflected onto the bar by Darragh Leahy and the open nature of the game continued with Patrick Hoban heading over after a fine move on the right involving Connor Malley and Archie Davies.
KA broke the deadlock in the 28th minute when they managed to break Dundalk’s press and Elfar Árni Adalsteinsson smacked the ball past Nathan Shepperd after Andy Boyle lost his footing, but the small band of supporters who made the expensive trip to Iceland had something to cheer about just four minutes later when Kelly steered his effort past Jajalo after KA failed to clear a Davies cross.
Sveinn Margeir Hauksson restored KA’s lead with 36 minutes on the clock when he arrowed a low drive into Shepperd’s far corner and Dundalk were left with lots to do when Sigurgeirsson sprung free on the right and his cutback fell for Hauksson who made it 3-1 with the last act of the first half.
Dundalk completely dominated the second half and substitute John Martin had one cleared off the line by Daniel Hafsteinsson but KA managed to see it out and their celebrations at full-time were that of a team that believes they may have one foot in the next round.
KA AKUREYRI: Kristijan Jajalo; Hrannar Mar Steingrímsson (Alex Freyr Elísson 90), Dusan Brkovic, Rodri, Birgir Baldvinsson; Sveinn Margeir Hauksson (Jóan Edmundsson 81), Bjarni Adalsteinsson, Daníel Hafsteinsson; Paetur Petersen (Jakob Snaer Árnason 60), Ásgeir Sigurgeirsson (Elfar Adalsteinsson 81), Hallgrímur Mar Steingrímsson.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Archie Davies, Hayden Muller, Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy, Robbie McCourt (Ryan O’Kane HT); Johannes Yli-Kokko (John Martin 63), Greg Sloggett (Paul Doyle 63), Connor Malley, Daniel Kelly (Cameron Elliott 81); Patrick Hoban.
REFEREE: Georgi Davidov (Bulgaria). ATTENDANCE: 915.