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Rusty Dundalk go down to AZ Alkmaar but qualification still possible

The Lilywhites put in a disappointing performance and lost out to a first half goal in the Europa League tonight.

The Dundalk players dejected at the full-time whistle.
The Dundalk players dejected at the full-time whistle.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Dundalk 0
AZ Alkmaar 1

Ben Blake reports from Tallaght Stadium

DUNDALK’S HOPES of qualification to the Europa League knockout stages suffered a setback tonight as they went down 1-0 to AZ Alkmaar at Tallaght Stadium.

Playing in their first competitive match for two-and-a-half weeks, the home side lacked the spark we’ve seen from them so often in Europe this season and began the game poorly.

Dutch striker Wout Weghorst struck the decisive goal nine minutes in after slack defending allowed him to pounce on a loose ball and blast home.

A third consecutive defeat in the competition leaves the Lilywhites needing a win from their final group game away to Maccabi Tel-Aviv on 8 December to guarantee second place — although a score draw would be enough if Zenit St Petersburg defeat AZ.

The Dundalk Team Dundalk's starting XI. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ciaran Kilduff, the super sub in Holland two months ago, was handed a start ahead of regular first choice striker David McMillan, while skipper Stephen O’Donnell was deemed fit to start after struggling with injuries recently.

With Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, assistant Roy Keane and President Michael D Higgins all watching on, it was the visiting team who struck first early in the first half, however.

After a succession of corners, Mats Seuntjens recycled the ball and crossed from the left flank. Andy Boyle missed the header and Dane Massey took a heavy touch to hand Weghorst the chance and he made no mistake from ten yards.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy was also in attendance to watch the in-demand Daryl Horgan — so effective all season — but the winger had one of his quieter nights.

Instead, it was Ronan Finn who led the Dundalk charge as they steadily improved the longer the first half went on.

Good footwork from the former Shamrock Rovers man very nearly created an opening on 34 minutes and Kilduff headed wide from the resulting corner.

Finn then took a shot on 30 yards out, only to see it sail wide of Sergio Rochet’s goal.

Stephen Kenny was forced into a change minutes before the half-time whistle as O’Donnell’s recent fitness troubles continued.

The midfielder had pulled up with a hamstring problem and despite attempting to play on, had to be replaced by John Mountney.

Wout Weghorst celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game AZ goalscorer Wout Weghorst (right). Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Despite a bright start from Dundalk after the interval, it was AZ who had several chances to double their advantage with Gary Rogers regularly coming to the rescue. The experienced goalkeeper was kept busy and pulled off saves from Weghorst, Seuntjens, Jahanbakhsh and Rienstra to keep his side in the game.

But Dundalk held in there and threw on David McMillan in place of the largely-ineffective Kilduff for the final 15 minutes.

With AZ content to sit on their one-goal advantage as the clock ticked down, the home team pushed numbers forward with Finn coming close and Gannon’s goalbound strike blocked but it wasn’t to be.

DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Boyle, Gartland, Massey; O’Donnell (c) (Mountney 41), Benson, McEleney (Shiels 80), Finn, Horgan; Kilduff (McMillan 76).

AZ ALKMAAR: Rochet; Johansson, Vlaar (c), Wuytens, Haps; Luckassen, Seuntjens, Rienstra; Jahanbakhsh (Dos Santos 75), Weghorst (Friday 87), Tankovic (Ouwejan 80).

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Ben Blake

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