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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 3 December 2020
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Arsenal 3-0 Dundalk

Hello, and welcome to tonight’s liveblog.

It’s a huge occasion for Dundalk, undoubtedly one of the biggest games in their history.

They go into the game as significant underdogs and a loss would seriously harm their hopes of progressing.

The Lilywhites already lost their first game at home to Molde, while Arsenal earned an opening win over Rapid Vienna.

Against the odds, they managed to pick up points in the group stages of this competition under Stephen Kenny, and they will be hoping to repeat that feat tonight, after an indifferent domestic season that has seen them usurped as champions by Shamrock Rovers.

a-view-of-a-flag-put-out-in-the-emirates-stadium-of-the-late-dundalk-team-videographer-harry-taaffe A view of a flag put out in the Emirates stadium of the late Dundalk team videographer Harry Taaffe. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I read a very long interview of his because I wanted to know who he is, what he is trying to do and this is how I found out about what happened,” Mikel Arteta on Dundalk boss Filippo Giovagnoli ahead of tonight’s match.

Read our full match preview here.

Confirmation of the teams…

We’re underway…

As expected, Arsenal are dominating possession and territory early on.

As I type though, McEleney has a shot from distance that Rúnarsson is forced to tip away for a corner.

Interestingly, Michael Duffy has started in a very central attacking role.

Dundalk will be hoping his pace can expose the Gunners on the counter-attack.

Pepe’s cross deflects off Cleary.

It then falls to Cédric Soares on the edge of the area, but he blasts it well over.

Andy Boyle has to make a last-ditch tackle, after Willock gets away from Shields in the area.

Arsenal are piling on the pressure at the moment, with Dundalk largely in defensive mode.

Gartland gets to a cross just ahead of Nketiah and clears for a corner.

Dundalk have defended well so far, but the Arsenal attacks have been a bit more relentless than Filippo Giovagnoli would like. 

Pepe heads just over after a cross. Moments later, Nelson fires just wide from the edge of the area.

Dundalk need to be better in possession to quell the pressure on their goal. They’ve given the ball away too cheaply so far.

Dundalk string a few passes together nicely, but the attack comes to an abrupt halt when Mountney overhits his cross.

Still there were encourage signs for the visitors there with the number of bodies they were willing to get in the box.

Dundalk counter but McEleney can’t properly connect with Mountney’s cross.

Moments later, a Shields shot deflects out for a corner, and Duffy’s subsequent set piece goes straight into the arms of Rúnarsson.

Willock’s cross finds Kolasinac, whose header is tipped over the bar by Gary Rogers.

Dundalk survive another nervy moment.

cameron-dummigan-with-cedric-soares Dundalk's Cameron Dummigan with Cedric Soares of Arsenal. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Another attempt by Willock is gathered comfortable by Rogers.

For all Arsenal’s pressure, they’ve yet to force an exceptional save from the Dundalk goalkeeper.

As I type though, a Pepe shot from the edge of the area deflects into the path of Nketiah, whose effort from close range goes wide.

Arsenal take the lead and it’s been coming.

Dundalk will be disappointed with the manner of the goal.

Rogers comes for a corner but can’t get a decisive touch on it. It then deflects off Cleary into the path of Nketiah, who makes no mistake with a poacher’s finish from close range.

Pepe’s attempted shot deflects into the path of the onrushing Willock, whose clinical finish leaves Rogers with no chance.

That’s harsh on Dundalk, who were so close to reaching half-time with the game scoreless.

So half-time, and if Dundalk didn’t have a mountain to climb at the start of this match, they certainly do now.

The Lilywhites have defended relatively well for much of the contest, but just lost their composure on the brink of half-time and were duly punished.

Arsenal dominated possession and territory, but didn’t have too many clear-cut chances before the opening goal.

Perhaps the most disappointing element for Dundalk is that they’ve been pretty wasteful when their sporadic attacks have come about.

Crosses have been overhit or placed straight into the goalkeeper’s arms — the attacking side of their game is certainly better than that opening 45 minutes suggests.

Dundalk are making a change at the break.

Murray has been replaced by Sloggett.

The second half has begun…

We’re about 30 seconds into the second half and Pepe produces a moment of magic.

He receives the ball on the edge of the area, and despite being surrounded by a couple of Dundalk bodies, he manages to curls an unstoppable effort into the top corner with minimal backlift.

Here’s a look at all the goals so far…

Dundalk make a double change.

Flores and Hoare replace McEleney and Cleary.

McEleney took a bit of a knock just before that change, and so was unable to continue.

Dundalk remain under the cosh.

Every one of their players is back in their own half currently, as they defend manfully, with Arsenal only gaining in confidence, after those morale-boosting goals.

It’s Arsenal’s turn to make changes.

Willian and Ceballos come on in place of Mustafi and Pepe.

Dundalk now make another change.

Sean Gannon replaces Chris Shields. It means Mountney will switch to a more central position.

The tempo of this game has noticeably lessened.

Dundalk’s players in particular are starting to look tired after the intensity of the first half.

Willock wriggles away from one challenge in the area, before Gartland makes a good recovery tackle.

Dundalk will be doing well to keep this at 3-0, given the amount of pressure Arsenal are continuing to exert.

Another change for Dundalk. Duffy is replaced by Colovic.

They definitely have an eye on the upcoming game with St Pat’s now, with some key players departing the field.

Molde currently lead Rapid Vienna in the other game in this group.

More changes for Arsenal.

Tierney and Balogun — who is making his debut — replace Xhaka and Nketiah.

nicolas-pepe-scores-their-third-goal-past-gary-rogers Arsenal's Nicolas Pépé scores their third goal past Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It’s been a fairly uneventful last few minutes.

Arsenal continue to have the better of the possession and territory, and are comfortably seeing this game out without threatening too much.

patrick-mceleney-down-injured Dundalk's Patrick McEleney receives treatment for an injury. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Reiss Nelson curls an attempt just wide.

The 20-year-old has shown some lovely touches tonight and been one of the most impressive performers on display.

A cross falls to Tierney, but Gartland puts his body in the way of the full-back’s shot.

Aside from that disastrous five-minute period before half-time, Dundalk have defended well tonight.

There will be three minutes of stoppage time…

So that’s that.

Dundalk can’t be faulted for effort, but they were outclassed ultimately.

The Irish side did really well to hold the Gunners for much of the first half, before they were brutally punished for a couple of individual errors just before the break.

Pepe produced the moment of the match just after half-time with a stunning effort from the edge of the area that effectively killed the game as a contest.

Thereafter, the match petered out, as Arsenal went down a gear and Dundalk defended manfully but rarely looking like doing damage down the other end.

Dundalk certainly didn’t disgrace themselves and were able to take a couple of key players off early in preparation for the vital clash with St Pat’s at the weekend. An injury to Patrick McEleney, however, was the most worrying sight of the night from their perspective.

Right, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll have more reaction to follow.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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