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Dundalk's Champions League dream ends after comprehensive defeat in Baku

Vinny Perth’s side slumped to a 3-0 loss against Qarabag, crashing out on a 4-1 aggregate scoreline.

Qarabag's Jaime Romero Rodrigues celebrates scoring his sides first goal.
Qarabag's Jaime Romero Rodrigues celebrates scoring his sides first goal.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Qarabag FK 3 (4)

Dundalk 0 (1)

Johnny Ward reports from the Dalga Arena

DUNDALK WERE GIVEN a footballing lesson by brilliant Qarabag side outside Baku as their Champions League dreams ended pretty meekly in Azerbaijan.

A goal in either half from Jaime Romero and Aiton before Romero completed a personal brace decided a one-sided game in which the Irish champions never really got going against vastly superior rivals.

The only sore point for Qarabag was behind the goal their stopper was defending midway through the second half, when police clashed with fans, many of whom were forced out of the ground.

It was ugly stuff, and this was pretty ugly on the pitch from a Lilywhites perspective, but they can reflect on playing an exceptionally talented Azeri outit.

Dundalk are now bound for Europa League combat next week where they’ll face Bratislava.

Dundalk made one change from the side that started in the first leg, Daniel Cleary coming in for the injured Robbie Benson, with Sean Hoare moving into midfield, sitting alongside Chris Shields in a deep role.

However, they were completely at sea, perhaps partly because of their struggles with a revised formation – but mainly because of the hosts’ quality – in the first half. Indeed, the opening 45 minutes were so lopsided, Dundalk were exceptionally fortunate to go in only a goal down.

Qarabag missed a glorious chance within 20 seconds. Mahir Emreli was put in by Filip Ozobic and Gary Rogers produced an excellent save; there was no let-up, as Rahil Mammadov headed over from the corner when he probably should have scored.

The visitors were struggling to breathe but at least Sean Hoare managed a header on target from a corner on six minutes, only for Qarabag to respond wth Ozobic finding Michel, who rattled the crossbar.

The lead goal was overdue on 12 minutes. Romero guided a lovely effort past Rogers after the ever-excellent Abdellah Zoubir laid it off.

Zoubir came close to making it 2-0 before Dundalk finally got some respite after Chris Shields clattered into Ozobic – who had to go off – after the French-Moroccan Zoubir’s cross.

Patrick Hoban coughed up possession on 29 minutes and Zoubir almost made it 2-0, but for an intervention by the excellent Cleary. With four minutes until half-time, the superb Zoubir found a little pocket but blazed over, Dundalk still all at sea, with playmaker Patrick McEleney notably out of sorts.

They tried to rally in the second half but again were immediately under duress. Substitute Dani Quintana’s shot was deflected wide with Gary Rogers beaten, before Zoubir also fired over.

Rogers has been sensational for Dundalk in this year’s European combat and he kept them in the tie with a really brave block from Emreli on 53 minutes after Zoubir pounced on a poor Cleary header.

Richard Almeida was pulling the strings for the hosts and Vinny Perth shuffled his midfield, bringing Hoare off and Sean Murray on after 56 minutes. Murray did brilliantly to block Romero as he closed in on a second.

Aiton’s header found a lively Rogers, who tipped over, as McEleney went off and John Mountney came on with 25 minutes left.

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Dundalk’s first chance came midway through the half and followed much their best bit of play in the game. Sean Gannon combined with Jamie McGrath before crossing to Hoban, whose flick just lacked sufficient power.

Qarabag nearly went further in front on 69 minutes but Mountney cleared off the line from Aiton’s header.

The tie was effectively decided with just under 15 minutes left as Michael Duffy’s poor clearance was punished, Maksim Madvedev crossing for the classy full-back Aiton to head home.

Qarabag continued to press and, after a nice first touch, Romero made it 3-0 with three minutes left, aided by a deflection. The superb Almeida then prompted a stunning Rogers save as the legless Lilywhites looked for the hammering to conclude.

Qarabag FK: Vagner; Maksim Medvedev (Abbas Huseynov 82), Rahil Mammadov, Rashad Sadygov, Ailton; Richard Almeida, Michel (Simeon Slavchev 73), Jaime Romero, Filip Ozobic (Dani Quintana 25), Abdellah Zoubir; Mahir Emreli.

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Sean Hoare (Sean Murray 56); Jamie McGrath, Patrick McEleney (John Mountney 65), Michael Duffy (Daniel Kelly 79); Patrick Hoban.

Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).

About the author:

Johnny Ward

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