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Dundalk's Patrick McEleney.
Dundalk's Patrick McEleney.
Image: LETA/INPHO

Dundalk advance on penalties after nerve-wracking Champions League qualifier

They will face Qarabag of Azerbaijan next.
Jul 17th 2019, 8:18 PM 34,534 46

DUNDALK BEAT RIGA 5-4 on penalties to advance to the next round of the Champions League.

Vinny Perth’s side will play Qarabag of Azerbaijan later this month in the second qualifying round, after a dramatic win in Latvia tonight.

Gary Rogers and Sean Hoare were the heroes for the Lilywhites in a match that finished scoreless after extra-time.

Hoare made a vital last-ditch block to prevent Roman Debelko from scoring in the dying minutes, before converting the winning penalty after the spot kicks had gone to sudden death.

Rogers also distinguished himself as he equalled Ollie Cahill’s record for most European appearances for a League of Ireland player (41).

The 37-year-old Dundalk goalkeeper did very well to deny Debelko in a one-on-one in extra-time, before saving two penalties from Armands Pētersons and Stefan Panic.

Georgie Kelly had previously missed a chance to score the winning penalty, but Dundalk were not left to rue that miss.

The Irish side looked the brighter team in the first half. Sean Gannon and Patrick McEleney both caused the hosts problems, and the latter forced a good save from Roberts Ozols with a powerful strike from the edge of the area.

The second half was similarly tight, with chances few and far between. Pat Hoban headed home from a Chris Shields cross, but it was ruled out for offside.

Riga improved as the game wore on though, and increasingly started to dominate possession, with the home side finishing normal time the stronger of the two teams.

Daniel Kelly caused the Latvians problems down the right after being introduced off the bench, while Rogers had to be alert to deny Debelko.

The game continued in a conservative fashion as it headed into extra-time, though Dundalk were given a boost 10 minutes before the final whistle.

Albania international Herdi Prenga received a second booking and was dismissed after cynically blocking Dane Massey’s run. This incident prompted Dundalk to press for a late winner, but they had to settle for penalties.

After the first six players all scored, four successive penalties were then missed, with Massey and Kelly both failing to find the net for the visitors, as Ozols saved on both occasions.

Deniss Rakels’ successful spot kick meant Jamie McGrath had to score to keep Dundalk’s hopes alive, and the 22-year-old midfielder held his nerve.

Pētersons’ effort was well saved by Rogers, before Hoare stepped up to seal a huge win for the Lilywhites.

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Paul Fennessy

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