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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 8 April, 2020

Dundalk's European dream ends on a disappointing night in Tallaght

Slovan Bratislava were too good for the Irish side.

Dundalk's Pat Hoban reacts to a decision.
Dundalk's Pat Hoban reacts to a decision.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Dundalk 1

Slovan Bratislava 3

Slovan Bratislava progress 4-1 on aggregate

DUNDALK WERE DUMPED out of the Europa League by Slovan Bratislava this evening, losing 3-1 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.

Aside from a brief second-half flurry from the League of Ireland outfit, it was a relatively comfortable evening for the Slovakian side, who were worthy winners.

Clinically taken goals from Rafael Ratão and Aleksandar Cavric gave Bratislava a commanding first-half lead, as a combination of impressive counter-attacking and inept Dundalk defending all but ended the tie as a contest.

Michael Duffy’s second-half goal gave the home team faint hopes of a comeback, but Pat Hoban’s penalty miss minutes later largely quelled any sense of optimism.

Long after it was obvious the Slovaks were going through, substitute Eric Daniel added insult to injury with another well-worked last-gasp goal.

With Jordan Flores, Robbie Benson and Stephen Folan all still absent, Dundalk were unchanged from the side that lost 1-0 in last week’s first leg in Slovakia, while the visitors made one alteration from that match, with Cavric coming into the starting XI in place of the unavailable Mohammed Rharsalla.

Dundalk were required to play the match at a rain-soaked Tallaght Stadium, with their usual ground Oriel Park not meeting Uefa regulations for this stage of the competition.

Trailing going into the contest, it was always going to be a stern test for the Irish side against the Slovakian champions, who like Dundalk are currently top of their domestic league, albeit with just four games played.

A positive start from Dundalk saw Jamie McGrath test Dominik Greif, with the goalkeeper needing to parry the 22-year-old midfielder’s effort away to safety, after an initial Dane Massey cross had only been half cleared.

There was a moment of panic for the home defence down the other end in the fifth minute. Gary Rogers did well to just get to a through ball ahead of Andraz Sporar, but the ball broke to last week’s matchwinner Dávid Holman, who saw his shot cleared off the line by Andy Boyle.

While Dundalk got away with a warning on that occasion, they weren’t so fortunate seven minutes later. The visitors broke at pace and a cross from Andraz Sporar allowed Rafael Ratão to head powerfully into the net.

It was a hammer blow for the Lilywhites, who at that point needed three goals on the night to qualify for the competition’s play-off round.

The visitors went close to doubling their advantage shortly thereafter. Sporar laid the ball off to Holman, whose shot the edge of area went narrowly wide.

The same two players linked up again moments later, as Holman turned provider, but his pass was too heavy, meaning Sporar failed to beat Rogers from a near-impossible angle.

Dundalk went close themselves in the 21st minute. Michael Duffy’s corner was headed back across goal by Daniel Cleary, but a last-ditch block prevented Pat Hoban from scoring. 

It was a good spell for the Lilywhites and Chris Shields was next to threaten, as Greif was forced to parry away the experienced midfielder’s deflected effort from just outside the box.

The hosts sustained the pressure on their opponents’ goal thereafter. Massey found Sean Murray inside the box, and the ex-Watford player produced a clever first touch, before curling his attempt inches wide on the half-hour mark.

It was disaster for Dundalk three minutes later though.  Vasil Bozhikov played a ball over the top and Boyle’s attempted header back to Gary Rogers fell short and Cavric got in between the duo, before producing a fine finish, flicking it over the goalkeeper and into the net.

The hosts threatened to respond immediately. John Mountney’s low free kick on the edge of the area was well struck, but Greif got down well to parry it away.

Bratislava then wasted a gilt-edged chance to make it 3-0 five minutes before the break. Bozhikov’s deep cross picked out an unmarked Holman, and the 26-year-old Hungary international’s volleyed finish from close range shaved the top of the crossbar.

Rafael Ratao celebrates scoring a goal Slovan Bratislava's Rafael Ratao celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Dundalk needed a miracle to produce a second-half turnaround. Vinny Perth made a double change at the break in an attempt to bolster his deflated side, with Patrick McEleney and Sean Hoare replacing Murray and Cleary.

Their attack just wasn’t quite functioning effectively though. McEleney and Duffy both produced tame efforts on goal, before the latter overhit a pass for the onrushing Massey much to the crowd’s frustration.

Pat Hoban did threaten just before the hour mark, getting a head to Shields’ inswinging cross but Greif was again equal to the task.

The goalkeeper produced an even better save moments later, as Hoare’s curled effort from the edge of the area was kept out owing to an acrobatic diving save.

Dundalk were given a glimmer of hope with 20 minutes remaining. Massey cut the ball across to Duffy, whose low driven shot left the goalkeeper with no chance.

They were given more encouragement moments later. After McEleney’s shot was saved, Duffy’s rebound was adjudged to have come off the defender’s hand. Hoban subsequently stepped up, but his centrally-placed spot kick was saved by the legs of Greif.

Dundalk continued to search manfully for a goal, but struggled to open up the visitors in the dying minutes.

Bratislava put the icing on the cake in second-half stoppage time with another ruthlessly efficient counter-attack. Substitute Eric Daniel was found in acres of space down the left. He cut inside and beat Rogers at his near post just ahead of a despairing lunge from Boyle.

Tonight’s result ends the League of Ireland clubs’ interest in Europe this year, while Bratislava face PAOK in the next round, after the Greek Super League team were dumped out of the Champions League qualifiers tonight following a 5-4 aggregate loss to Ajax.

Dundalk: 1. Gary Rogers; 2. Sean Gannon 21. Daniel Cleary (Hoare 46) 44. Andy Boyle 14. Dane Massey; 5. Chris Shields 16. Sean Murray (McEleney 46) 8. John Mountney 10. Jamie McGrath (Georgie Kelly 79) 7. Michael Duffy; 9 Patrick Hoban.

Subs: 20. Aaron McCarey 3. Brian Gartland 4. Sean Hoare 11. Patrick McEleney 12. Georgie Kelly 17. Cameron Dummigan 27. Daniel Kelly.

Slovan Bratislava: 1. Dominik Greif; 17. Jurij Medvedev (Apau 65) 14. Myenty Abena 29. Vasil Bozhikov 81. Vernon De Marco; 6. Joeri de Kamps 8. Marin Ljubičić; 21. Rafael Ratão (Sukhotskiy 86) 27. Dávid Holman 77. Aleksandar Cavric (Daniel 61); 9. Andraz Sporar.

Subs: 30. Michal Sulla 2. Mitch Apau 10. Rabiu Ibrahim 15. Dávid Strelec 20. Erik Daniel 23. Artem Sukhotskiy 24. Nono.

Referee: Robert Schörgenhofer (AUS)

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy  / Paul Fennessy reports from Tallaght Stadium

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