Levadia Tallinn 0
Caoimhín Reilly reports from Kadriorg Stadium
DUNDALK MADE A winning return to the Europa League qualifiers in Tallinn this evening against home side Levadia.
Stephen Kenny’s men dominated and took a grip on affairs towards the end of the first half, before making their superiority count after the break with Dylan Connolly scoring the only goal.
Having been declared a major doubt for the match in the Estonian capital, Dundalk winger Michael Duffy was instrumental in his team wrestling the initiative, squaring the ball for Connolly to finish from close range for his first European goal. It was the provider’s 19th assist of the season.
Duffy’s combination play with Robbie Benson was also key to the Lilywhites’ succession of chances shortly before half-time, after Levadia had made the better start.
Visiting goalkeeper Gary Rogers had to be sharp to keep Aleksandar Rogic’s men at bay in the early stages, getting down smartly to palm the ball away on three occasions. In the second half, Rogers pulled off a magnificent stop to his left after Pavel Marin’s cross had ricocheted off the heel of Brian Gartland.
Pat Hoban — seeking to score in his first European appearance since 2014 — had Dundalk’s earliest opportunity after receiving the ball from Benson on the break. However, the striker mis-controlled with only Sergei Lepmets to beat. He would later pass up a chance to finish the tie after more good work by Connolly.
Duffy then whistled another effort off target, Jamie McGrath nodded over and Benson had a shot deflected behind as the missed opportunities mounted before the interval.
Connolly’s 53rd-minute goal forced Levadia to throw caution to the wind. This created space for Connolly to exploit with his pace and he did so, racing behind the cover with 18 minutes to go. But his strong right-footed effort was denied spectacularly by Lepmets.
Nonetheless, a 1-0 victory has the Louth men primed for a second-round berth ahead of next Thursday’s return fixture at Oriel Park, where a clash with AEK Larnaca of Cyprus will be at stake.
LEVADIA TALLINN: Sergei Lepmets; Markus Jurgenson, Igor Dudarev, Maksim Podholjuzin, Dmitri Kruglov; Marcellin Gando (Pavel Marin, 56), Yuriy Tkachuk, Rasmus Peetson (Muamer Svraka, 67), Jevgeni Harin (Mark Oliver Roosnupp, 76); Roman Debelko, Nikita Andreev.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson; Dylan Connolly (John Mountney, 88), Jamie McGrath (Krisztián Adorjan, 81), Michael Duffy (Ronan Murray, 90); Pat Hoban.
Referee: Bojan Nikolic (Serbia)
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