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Dublin: 9°C Friday 7 May 2021
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Major disappointment for Dundalk after spirited Champions League display

The Lilywhites went down 2-0 to Legia Warsaw in tonight’s play-off first leg in Dublin.

Goalscorer Nemanja Nikolic.
Goalscorer Nemanja Nikolic.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Dundalk 0

Legia Warsaw 2

AN INJURY-TIME second goal has left Dundalk with an uphill battle to progress in their Champions League play-off with Legia Warsaw.

Hungarian forward Nemanja Nikolic scored the opener from the spot after a controversial penalty had been awarded early in the second half, and substitute Aleksandar Prijovic struck a killer blow with virtually the last kick of the game.

It was cruel on the SSE Airtricity League’s top side, who were competitive and disciplined throughout.

The Louth club had called upon football fans from four corners of the island to get behind them as they look to become the first Irish club to qualify for the competition’s group stages.

And, despite the bad weather, a crowd of 30,417 showed up to Lansdowne Road on the night.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw - UEFA Champions League Qualifying - Play-Off First Leg - Aviva Stadium The Dundalk players huddle. Source: Niall Carson

The game was a landmark for another reason as it marked the first time goal-line technology has been officially used in a football match in Ireland.

Stephen Kenny resisted the temptation to throw reliable defender Brian Gartland straight back into the starting line-up despite his return to the squad after a broken wrist suffered against FH Hafnarfjordur last month.

Instead, Paddy Barrett partnered Andy Boyle at centre-half once again. Patrick McEleney shuck off a groin injury to begin behind striker David McMillan — the competition’s joint-top scorer in the competition this season with five goals.

And it was the the former Derry City man who had the opening chance of the night. He rose highest to meet John Mountney’s corner but couldn’t direct the header goalward.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw - UEFA Champions League Qualifying - Play-Off First Leg - Aviva Stadium Dundalk fans enjoy the evening. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Dundalk’s promising start continued and Daryl Horgan very nearly caught out Legia goalkeeper Arkadiusz Malarz with a deep cross to the far post. Moments later, McEleney shot over after patient build-up play.

Stephen O’Donnell handed the visitors an opportunity to trouble Gary Rogers’ goal while picking up a yellow card in the process when he chopped down Belgian international Vadis Odjidja on the 20-minute mark.

Crucially, the booking also means the influential skipper misses next week’s return leg.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw - UEFA Champions League Qualifying - Play-Off First Leg - Aviva Stadium Legia Warsaw fans with flares just before kick-off. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Legia striker Nikolic, reportedly a target for Hull City this summer, stepped up but struck the wall with his set-piece.

Rogers had to be alert to tip away an attempted cross from Steeven Langil, while Michael Kucharczyk came close after a neat lay-off from Nikolic as Legia tested the water.

McEleney enjoyed an excellent first half and his superb flick to Horgan was close to unlocking the Legia backline, but Igor Lewczuk put in a last-ditch challenge as the sides went into the break locked at 0-0.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw - UEFA Champions League Qualifying - Play-Off First Leg - Aviva Stadium Lewczuk gets a toe to the ball as Horgan looks to pull the trigger. Source: Niall Carson

Kenny sent an unchanged XI out for the second half, and similarly to the first, they began on the front-foot.

Horgan’s cross was headed tamely into the hands of Malarz by Chris Shields when Sean Gannon looked to be in a better position to make use of the pass.

Midfielder Shields then won possession in the centre of the park and set off on a run to tee up Horgan. The Galwegian’s low strike was smothered by the Legia number one.

But Legia were to be handed a huge stroke of luck on 56 minutes. Nikolic rounded Rogers and cut the ball back for Langil, whose shot struck the arm of Boyle.

German referee Deniz Aytekin pointed to the spot and brandished a yellow card, which looked an extremely harsh decision, before Nikolic drilled home from 12 yards out.

Dundalk pen Source: RTE Player

Space began to open up in Dundalk’s defence as they pushed forward in search of a goal and Kucharczyk’s effort stung the hands of Rogers.

Kenny sent on Ronan Finn in place of John Mountney but it was Legia who continued to threaten. O’Donnell had to make a timely interception to prevent a goalscoring chance, while Langil shot over and Rogers saved from Tomasz Jodlowiec.

Robbie Benson and Ciaran Kilduff were also introduced before the end, but they couldn’t muster up a goal in the closing stages — although the latter had a penalty claim, minutes before blazed over the bar.

It looked as though Dundalk would travel to Warsaw for Tuesday’s second leg trailing by a single goal, but Prijovic found the back of the net at the death.

DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Boyle, Barrett, Massey; Shields (Benson 76), O’Donnell (c), Mountney (Finn 64), Horgan, McEleney; McMillan (Kilduff 80).

LEGIA WARSAW: Malarz; Broz, Pazdan (c),Lewczuk, Hlousek; Jodlowiec, Odjidja (Kopczynski 75), Moulin, Langil, Kucharczyk; Nikolic (Prijovic 82).

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Ben Blake

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