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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
©INPHO FC BATE Borisov players celebrate after scoring the only goal of the game.
# Report
Dundalk face uphill task after inspired substitutions give BATE the edge
The Irish side sat back and soaked up pressure for much of the game, and defended well for long periods.

DUNDALK FACE AN uphill task next week in Tallaght Stadium, after losing their Champions League first-leg tie 1-0 away to Belarus’ BATE Borisov this evening.

The Irish side sat back and soaked up pressure for much of the game, and defended well for long periods.

However, with just over 20 minutes remaining, Alexander Hleb capitalised on a sloppy pass by Sean Gannon, as the ex-Arsenal man set up fellow substitute Mikhail Gordejchuk to fire home the winner.

Prior to the goal, Stephen Kenny’s men had been under the cosh for much of the game.

In the first half, Igor Stasevich was causing problems down the left-hand side, as BATE dominated possession and territory.

Yet despite the hosts’ superiority, they rarely tested Gary Rogers in the opening period, with Vitali Rodionov and  Aleksandr Karnitskiy both directing half chances off target.

BATE, however, benefitted from some good fortune on 33 minutes. Maksim Zhavnerchik was lucky to only get booked after an extremely rash elbow left Stephen O’Donnell needing treatment.

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Moments later, a rare Dundalk attack almost paid dividends. Daryl Horgan and Robbie Benson linked up well, before the latter’s shot on the edge of the box forced goalkeeper Sergei Veremko to palm the attempt just wide.

The Belarusians continued to dominate thereafter, and it was no surprise when the Lilywhites’ manager Stephen Kenny opted to make a defensive double change at half-time, with Chris Shields and John Mountney replacing Benson and Patrick McEleney.

The second period followed a similar pattern to the first, as BATE enjoyed long spells of possession while struggling to find a way past their opponents’ stubborn backline.

The deadlock was finally broken on 69 minutes, however, as the home side’s two substitutes combined brilliantly.

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After Gannon gave the ball away in Dundalk’s final third, Gordejchuk latched on to Hleb’s intelligent through pass before beating Rogers at his near post.

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The Irish side tried to rally following this setback, but they created little of note, having expended so much energy trying to keep BATE out for the majority of the match.

And it could have been much worse for the Lillywhites, as the hosts threatened to kill the tie off. Stasevich’s shot from the edge of the box forced Rogers into a decent save, before Kaspars Dubra’s header hit the crossbar moments later.

Dundalk held on, however, and will probably feel somewhat fortunate to only lose by a single goal.

The reigning Airtricity League Premier Division champions go into next week’s second leg down but not out, and knowing they will need to offer much more in attack if they are retain any hopes of progression to the Champions League play-offs, with increasingly lucrative financial rewards on offer should they avoid exiting the competition.

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