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Dundalk come from behind twice in Tallaght to draw with Levadia Tallinn

All four goals came during a breathless first half at Tallaght Stadium.

David McMillan celebrates scoring Dundalk's second goal.
David McMillan celebrates scoring Dundalk's second goal.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Dundalk FC 2

FC Levadia Tallinn 2

Ciarán Kennedy reports from Tallaght Stadium

DUNDALK CAME FROM behind twice in Tallaght to secure a 2-2 draw against Estonia’s Levadia Tallinn, but Vinny Perth will feel his side should have taken more from this Europa Conference League second qualifying round, first leg fixture after dominating the second half.

The Lilywhites knew this tie wouldn’t be as straightforward as their rather comfortable first qualifying round games, which saw Dundalk advance on a 5-0 aggregate scoreline against Newtown.

Yet Perth’s side did themselves absolutely no favours across a breathless and rather chaotic opening half of football in Tallaght. 

The 1,000 supporters inside Tallaght Stadium – at least 980 of which belonged to Dundalk – were in good voice before the game, but were stunned into silence with just 66 seconds on the clock, Levadia striker Bogdan Vastsuk producing a neat finish across Alessio Abibi’s goal after some good work down the left wing from Ernest Agyiri. 

Dundalk were level within a minute, Will Patching racing onto Dan Kelly’s cutback and tucking the ball into the bottom corner.

That quick response should have helped settle Dundalk into the contest, but instead Perth’s side continued to look a little unsure of themselves. Passes failed to find their targets as Dundalk struggled to play out from the back, while they also tended to allow their opponents plenty of time and space on the ball.

It played right into hands of Levadia, who sit top of the Estonian league and came into the game on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run. Levadia captain Brent Lepistu marshalled the space in front of the back four – earning himself an early yellow card with a full-blooded challenge on McMillan – while the lively Agyiri continued to cause problems, the visitors constantly looking to find him down that left flank.

That lack of intensity in the Dundalk team led to Levadia taking the lead again just before the 20 minute mark. Zakaria Beglarishvili took possession in the pocket of space between the Dundalk midfield and defence, and had the time to look up and slip a gorgeous pass into the path of Vastsuk, who had broken clear and was able to chip the advancing Abibi for his second of the game.

raivis-jurkovskis-and-ernest-agyiri Dundalk's Raivis Jurkovskis and Ernest Agyiri of Levadia. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

When Dundalk did manage to get their passing game going, they looked dangerous. David McMillan saw a long-range shot blocked by the head of a Levadia defender. Levadia goalkeeper Karl Andre Vallner then flung himself at a cross only to get fingertips on the ball. Daniel Kelly was on hand at the back post to square the ball to McMillan, but the striker couldn’t direct his header on target as Vallner scrambled back into position. 

McMillan had his goal just a couple of minutes later, taking a touch before finishing low from six yards out following some neat build-up play from Wilfried Zahibo – starting in place of the absent Michael Duffy – and Raivis Jukovskis.

From that point Dundalk began to look more comfortable, but still struggled to take control of the game. They felt they should have had a penalty shortly before half-time, but Levadia defender Maximiliano Ugge appeared to get a toe on the ball as Patching cut along the touchline. 

The teams went in at the break level at 2-2, both sides surely feeling the game was there for the taking.

Dundalk looked more assured on the ball in the opening stages of the second period, but the final pass continued to let them down as sections of the Dundalk support grew increasingly frustrated.

Perth reacted by introducing Greg Sloggett for Zahibo with just under an hour played. The No 10 quickly made his presence felt and injected some tempo into the Dundalk midfield. With one of his first touches, he slipped smartly past a couple of Levadia players before putting just too much on his pass as he tried to play in McMillan. 

Slowly, the chances started coming for Dundalk. 

david-mcmillan-and-ilya-antonov McMillan battles for possession. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Patrick McEleney saw two shots from the edge of the box deflect wide in quick succession, the second of which resulted in another Dundalk penalty shout from a corner, McMillan claiming a push in the back from Frank Lilvak. Referee Miroslav Zelinka waved the play on.

Dundalk continued to push for a winner. Sloggett curled a shot through a sea of bodies from the edge of the box but saw it sail wide. McMillan had the ball nicked off his toe after Kelly’s burst a lung to get on the end of a raking cross-field pass. Vallmer punched clear as Sloggett tried to get on the end of another corner, and the same player failed to connect properly with a fine Jurkovskis cross moments later as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

The last chance fell to McEleney, but after dancing past a couple of Levadia defenders he fired his shot too close to Vallner. Not for the first time, exasperated Dundalk heads fell into hands.

Dundalk know will need to be far more clinical if they are to advance from next week’s return leg in Estonia following an entertaining, if ultimately frustrating night in Tallaght.

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Dundalk: Allessio Abibi; Raivis Jurkovskis, Andy Boyle (captain), Sonni Nattestad, Darragh Leahy; Will Patching, Wilfried Zahibo (Greg Sloggett, 58), Samuel Stanton (Sean Murray, 75); Daniel Kelly, Patrick McEleney, David McMillan (Ole Erik Midtskogen 87).

Subs: Peter Cherrie, Niall Brady, Cameron Dummigan, Valentino Adedokun, O’Kane Ryan, Mark Hanratty, Jeongwoo Han.

Booked: Kelly 45, Nattestad 90

Levadia Tallinn: Karl Andre Vallner; Ilja Antonov (Trevor Elhi, 56), Maximiliano Ugge, Maksim Podholjuzin, Miljian Ilic (Rasmus Peetson, HT); Frank Liivak (Karl Rudolf Oigus 79), Marko Puntincanin, Brent Lepistu (captain), Bogdan Vastsuk, Ernest Agyiri (Mark Oliver  Roosnupp, 67); Zakaria Beglarishvili.

Subs: Artur Kotenko, Milan Motrovic, Luka Lukovic, Markus Jurgenson, Robert Kriss, Amar Yunis Abdallah, Hannes Anier.

Booked: Lepistu 34, Peetson 69

Referee: Miroslav Zelinka (CZE) 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey look ahead to the big one this weekend in Cape Town. Become a member for loads of more rugby podcasts and video analysis shows: members.the42.ie/

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Ciarán Kennedy

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