Lilywhites Bow Out Of Champions League
Dundalk bowed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening as they drew 1-1 with 10 man Legia Warsaw at the Stadion Legia.
Robbie Benson had given the Irish champions a first half lead with a stunning strike and they held that advantage until the final minute of injury time when Michal Kuchaczyk equalised on the night and put the side through 3-1 on aggregate.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Dundalk knew that they had to score at least twice to extend the match and were on the front foot early on with Patrick McEleney and Daryl Horgan both showing creativity with free-kicks however it was only the latter’s effort which was on target.
Thibaut Moulin had a shot blocked by Dane Massey before the 19th minute opener from Benson.
A superb cross from Sean Gannon was onto the head of David McMillan. He perfectly nodded the ball to the edge of the box where no one had picked up Benson and he caught the ball on the volley to unleash an unstoppable shot to the top right corner to silence the raucous crowd in the stadium.
Adam Hlousek, who would play villain later on, tested Gary Rogers for the first time but his effort was tame.
Kucharczyk had a shot blocked before the ball fell to him on the edge of the box. His stunning drive was bound for the top corner however somehow Rogers got across to claw the ball away to safety.
Legia were more in the game as the tie approached the interval and both Moulin and Romasz Jodlowiec had shots go wide of the target before the referee blew the half-time whistle and the home fans jeered off their team.
The second half began cagey with both teams struggling for rhythm with the only major action of the first 15 minutes of a re-start was the yellow shown to Hlousek for a late tackle on Paddy Barrett.
Just after the hour mark Dundalk had a wonderful opportunity to level the tie when another McMillan knockdown fell to the superb Benson. He improvised wonderfully to try an overhead kick with his back to goal just 8 yards out but the ball went just over the bar.
The visitors looked like they had been given a further advantage when Hlousek hauled Ronan Finn down on the halfway line and was shown a second yellow card with Legia down to 10.
The red card seemed to suit the hosts as it allowed them to sit on the counter with substitute Bartosz Bereszynski having a shot blocked but Dundalk had their best chance with 10 minutes to go when a terrific turn from Horgan set him away. He fed it to McEleney but his strike was weak and straight at the goalkeeper.
That seemed to kill the game and Legia were able to hold out from the second goal and they duly finished off the tie in injury-time.
With Dundalk pushed forward for a leveller, a long punt forward from Igor Lewczuk was latched onto by Kucharczyk. He took the ball past Boyle before firing a brilliant strike to the top corner.
It sent the already rocking stadium delirious with the last kick of the game to send them into the Champions League group stages.
It brought to an end an unforgettable Champions League run for Dundalk but they do have the consolation of being in the Europa League group stage draw on Friday!
LEGIA WARSAW: Arkadiusz Malarz, Adam Hlousek, Lucasz Broz, Igor Lewczuk, Michal Pazdan, Steeven Langil ( Guilherme 65), Michal Kucharczyk, Romasz Jodlowiec, Thibault Moulin (Aleksandar Prijovic 93), Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, Nemanja Nikolic (Bartosz Bereszynski 71).
Substitutes not used: Michael Kopcznski, Kasper Hamalainen, Mihail Alekandrov, Radoslaw Cierzniak (GK)
Booked: Odjidja-Ofoe (7), Hlousek (57)(67), Kucharczk (90).
Sent Off: Hlousek (67).
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Paddy Barrett, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Ronan Finn, Chris Shields (Darren Meenan 83), Robbie Benson, Daryl Horgan, Patrick McEleney Michael O’ Connor 89), David McMillian.
Substitutes not used: Shane Grimes, Georgie Poynton, John Mountney, Brian Gartland, Gabriel Sava (GK)
Booked:: Benson (73), Barrett (89(.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).