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Dogged Dundalk have errors punished in Europa League defeat to Arsenal

A quickfire double just before half-time paved the way for the Gunners to overcome the Lilywhites.

arsenal-v-dundalk-uefa-europa-league-group-b-emirates-stadium Joe Willock scores Arsenal's second goal against Dundalk. Source: PA

Arsenal 3
Dundalk 0

ARSENAL MADE IT back-to-back Europa League victories this evening at the expense of a Dundalk side who suffered the second defeat of their Group B campaign.

A quickfire double from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock just before half-time paved the way for the English Premier League giants to collect another three points, with Nicolas Pepe adding a third just after the restart at the Emirates Stadium.

The 2019 League of Ireland Premier Division champions would have been frustrated at the interval, a couple of individual errors having left them facing a two-goal deficit after they had stifled Mikel Arteta’s men for over 40 minutes.

Dundalk, who lost 2-1 against Molde last week, will resume their search for a first point when they travel to Rapid Vienna next Thursday. The Austrians will also be aiming to get off the mark, having followed a 2-1 loss to Arsenal with a 1-0 defeat against Molde tonight.

Despite being penned into their own half during the early moments, it was Dundalk who had the first sight of goal in North London. Patrick McEleney connected well with a long-range strike that forced debutant goalkeeper Rúnar Rúnarsson to be alert in getting down to save.

arsenal-v-dundalk-uefa-europa-league-group-b-emirates-stadium Chris Shields of Dundalk and Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac battle for possession. Source: PA

Filippo Giovagnoli’s side set up with three central defenders – Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle and Dan Cleary – who were supported from the flanks by John Mountney and Cameron Dummigan. However, opportunities to get forward were scarce for the wing-backs.

With one eye on Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, the Arsenal starting line-up showed 10 changes, Granit Xhaka the only surviving member of the team that lost at home to Leicester City last weekend.

Nevertheless, they dictated the contest and forced the visitors to endure several nervy moments as the opening period progressed, with Reiss Nelson inches away from opening the scoring before Gary Rogers was called upon to deny Sead Kolasinac and Joe Willock.

Dundalk were minutes away from being rewarded for a spirited and efficient first-half display by going into the dressing room at the break on level terms. Cruelly for the Lilywhites, the hosts broke the deadlock on 42 minutes.

When Nelson delivered a corner from the left, Rogers scuffed his attempt to punch the ball clear. It came back off the unwitting Cleary and fell kindly for Nketiah, who reacted quickly to stab the ball home from close range.


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Their lead was doubled within a couple of minutes and again Dundalk were punished for some sloppy play. A pass by Dummigan was intercepted by Nketiah, who squared to Pepe. After the Ivorian’s shot was blocked by Boyle, Willock pounced and beat Rogers with an emphatic finish.

nicolas-pepe-scores-their-third-goal-past-gary-rogers Nicolas Pepe scores Arsenal's third. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Any hopes Dundalk had of getting back into the game appeared to be extinguished with just 31 seconds of the second half played. Having been teed up on the edge of the box by Willock, Pepe showed lovely footwork before arrowing a sublime shot into the top corner.

Although their goal was under siege from the Gunners at times during the second half, Dundalk must be commended for withstanding the pressure.

They leave London empty-handed but with their heads held high after producing a dogged display under difficult circumstances.

Arsenal: Rúnar Rúnarsson, Cedric, Shkodran Mustafi (Dani Ceballos, 61), Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Granit Xhaka (Kieran Tierney, 74), Joe Willock, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe (Willian, 61), Eddie Nketiah (Folarin Balogun, 74), Reiss Nelson.

Dundalk: Gary Rogers, Dan Cleary (Sean Hoare, 53), Andy Boyle, Brian Gartland, John Mountney, Sean Murray (Greg Sloggett, HT), Chris Shields (Sean Gannon, 62), Patrick McEleney (Jordan Flores, 53), Cameron Dummigan, Michael Duffy (Stefan Colovic, 70), Patrick Hoban.

Referee: Filip Glova (Slovakia).

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Paul Dollery

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