Lilywhites Secure Crucial Away Goal Win
Dundalk came away from the Kadriorg Stadium with a superb 1-0 win over Levadia Tallinn in the first qualifying round first leg of the UEFA Europa League.
Dylan Connolly’s second half strike proved crucial and secured the win.
In a match played in sweltering conditions, it was Levadia who had the brighter of the starts.
Jevgeni Harin was causing problems on the left and he created and opening for Rasmus Peetson on the edge of the area but he fired well wide with time to take aim
Roman Debelko was next as he got his head on a corner kick but it was cleared away from goal by Robbie Benson and the danger was gone.
Yuriy Tkachuk was offered the chance to strike a free-kick towards goal when Harin was fouled on the edge of the box but he didn’t catch it cleanly and Gary Rogers dealt with it well.
Michael Duffy had Dundalk’s first effort of the night just after the quarter hour mark when he found space on the left and cut inside but his shot took a deflection and went wide.
Duffy was causing problems now and he got down the left before cutting back inside and his clever cross to the back post found Patrick Hoban’s head but it was weak and straight at the goalkeeper.
As the half wore on Dundalk began to find more of the ball and Duffy once more got on the ball down the left and his cross this time found Jamie McGrath who was arriving but he couldn’t find the target.
On the stroke of half-time it looked like the Lilywhites had found the chance to take the lead when some wonderful interplay on the left between Dane Massey and Duffy saw the latter square it for Benson but his goalbound effort was denied by a wonderful block.
After it was scoreless at the break, Debelko again had a header and it looked like he had an open goal but he missed the target completely.
Dundalk then took the lead with a crucial away goal with virtually the next attack.
Benson raided forward and Duffy made a run to his left. He found him and the winger took some lovely touches before squaring the ball brilliantly for the waiting Dylan Connolly who powered the ball to the net from six yards.
The game entered a period of scrappiness before Rogers pulled off a stunning save to deny an own goal from Brian Gartland who had a shot from substitute Pavel Marin rebound off him and goalwards but the goalkeeper somehow got down to save from point blank range.
Connolly then found himself through on goal and with the perfect opportunity to get his and Dundalk’s second however his powerful strike was excellently saved by Sergei Lepmets in goal.
Connolly was a threat all night and he showed superb strength on the right hand side to hold off the defender and find the free Hoban who was waiting however his shot was well saved by the goalkeeper from 8 yards.
Duffy had a chance to add a second in stoppage time however it curled wide.
That proved to be the final action as Dundalk held out for the win and take a crucial away goal back to Oriel Park next Thursday evening.
FCI Levadia Tallinn: Sergei Lepmets; Markus Jurgensen, Igor Dudarev, Maksim Podholjuzin, Dmitri Kruglov (capt); Marcellin Gando (Pavel Marin 57), Yuriy Tkachuk, Rasmus Peetson (Muamer Svraka 67), Jevgeni Harin (Mark Oliver Roosnup 75); Nikita Andreev, Roman Debelko.
Substitutes not used: Priit Pikker (GK), Igor Morozov, Kirill Nestov, Pavel Domov.
Booked: Marin (69), Andreev (90)
Sent off: None.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson; Dylan Connolly (John Mountney 88), Jamie McGrath (Krisztián Adorján 80), Michael Duffy (Ronan Murray 90); Patrick Hoban.
Substitutes not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Karolis Chvedukas, Daniel Cleary, Georgie Kelly.
Booked: Massey (70)
Sent off: None.
Referee: Bojan Nikolić (Serbia)