Karel Delvoije/INPHO Lilywhites goalscorer Ciaran Kilduff.
# heroic
Late Kilduff header earns 10-man Dundalk first-ever point on Europa League group stage debut
AZ Alkmaar had gone ahead but Stephen Kenny’s side rallied to equalise in the Group D opener.

Barry Landy reports from the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar

COMETH THE HOUR, cometh the man.

It was 85 minutes, to be precise, when Ciaran Kilduff’s header beat Sergio Rochet and to send the scores of Dundalk’s travelling support into raptures.

Against good opposition, and considering the Irish champions were a goal and a man down, it counts as the most unlikely of points.

The Lilywhites were very good at times, especially at periods in the first half. But any point accrued in this tough Europa League group is one gained and Stephen Kenny will rightly view this as a first step en route — perhaps — extending their continental journey beyond the festive season.

A second half header from Stijn Wuytens looked to have given the Eredivisie side the victory. It came an hour into the game and at a price for Wuytens.

Dundalk fans Karel Delvoije / INPHO Travelling Dundalk fans at the AFAS Stadion. Karel Delvoije / INPHO / INPHO

In the process of scoring, Wuytens clashed with Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers, leading to great concern over the 26-year-old’s welfare. He was unconscious on the field of play. Initial fears were that he swallowed his tongue.

It was a sickening collision. After Wuytens headed the ball, Rogers’ attempted punch away landed on Wuytens and when he fell to the ground, goal celebrations were muted as teammates immediately signalled for medical help.

It came — amidst tears and prayers from his team-mates — and after 5 minutes of stoppage, he was carried off. Reports later confirmed Wuytens had regained conscious.

HD Videos / YouTube

The size of Dundalk’s task was outlined from the very beginning of the game. Just two minutes were on the clock when Wuytens found Alireza Jahanbakhsh. His curling shot beat Rogers but not the post.

He would later go close again. Andy Boyle was on hand to block well, but that was only after Dundalk had a strong spell of their own.

Daryl Horgan was testing the AZ back line, skipping past players at will. He teed up McMillan who shot over. The striker then shot tamely enough at Rochet after he cut in form the right.

Dane Massey also had a shot and then Horgan hit an effort wide. The chance of the first half for the visitors came on 34 minutes.

McMillan on the left touchline flicked a ball over the top for Horgan to run onto. He surged into the space, beat van Eijden and then skipped past the last defender Vlaar. He tries to beat Rochet but the goalkeeper was quick off his line and dealt with it.

On the stroke of half time, the brilliantly named Fred Friday had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside. Television pictures showed Dundalk may have got away with one. Breaks come and go in football. Here, it fell for Louth men.

Stephen Kenny Karel Delvoije / INPHO Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny. Karel Delvoije / INPHO / INPHO

Minutes into the second half, Souza’s free-kick from the left was met by Derrick Luckassen at the back post. His side foot effort looks like it’s heading across Rogers and in but Gannon was back on the line to clear as players piled in.

Then came the opener and the stoppage that followed Wuytens’ injury. When play did eventually resume, it was Dundalk’s turn to lose an influential midfielder. Stephen O’Donnell received a second yellow for hacking down left back Ridgeciano Haps.

With that, Dundalk’s attacking endeavours were curbed. It wasn’t quite an onslaught but the home side were in control.

The two full-backs were being given ample space in which to move forward in the second half and right back Mattias Johansson tested Rogers with a low effort with five minutes to go. Souza tried to turn in the rebound but Rogers was up to deny him.

Dane Massey got caught out moments later, leaving Andy Boyle to clear off the line from Luckassen. With the margin of deficit at one, concentration needed to be high if the ten men were to benefit from the one final chance that might have come their way.

It did when a quick break saw Chris Shields released down the left. He smartly cut past the defender and won the free kick. Darryl Horgan sent it in and Kilduff — on the field only a matter of minutes — headed past Rochet.

Edal Black / YouTube

For the 800 or so Lilywhites fans in the AFAS Stadion – the vast majority of them behind that goal – it was just reward for them. They sang all night and regularly drowned out the home support.

A goal and a man down with 35 minutes of football to play, it seemed the task might only become more impossible. Dundlak’s European adventure is habitually proving the doubters wrong.

AZ ALKMAAR: Sergio Rochet, Mattias Johansson, Rens van Eijden, Ron Vlaar, Ridgeciano Haps, Derrick Luckassenm, Stijn Wuytens (Ben Rienstra, 65), Alireza Jahanbakhsh Illias Bel Hassani, 75), Joris van Overeem, Dabney Souza, Fred Friday (Wout Weghorst, 55).

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Stephen O’Donnell, Ronan Finn, John Mountney (Robbie Benson, 77), Patrick McEleney (Ciaran Kilduff, 85), Daryl Horgan, David McMillan (Chris Shields, 75)

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

As it happened: AZ Alkmaar v Dundalk, Europa League

Irish fans to be awarded by Uefa for their ‘outstanding contribution’ to Euro 2016

Your Voice
Readers Comments