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Good afternoon everyone, you’re very welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of Dundalk’s Champions League second qualifying round second leg against Qarabag.

Let’s not kid ourselves here folks, Vinny Perth’s men have a massive challenge ahead of them in Baku this evening.

Qarabag have made the group stages of both the Champions League and Europa League in recent years and have won the Azerbaijan domestic title for the last six years running.

The Lilywhites performed valiantly a week ago at Oriel Park to secure a 1-1 draw which gives them a fighting chance of making it through to the third qualifying round.

In fact, that 1-1 scoreline doesn’t even do Dundalk justice, because they did have a number of late chances to snatch a win at Oriel against all odds.

No Irish team has ever qualified for the group stages of the Champions League. Under Stephen Kenny in 2016 Dundalk made it all the way to the play-offs and no Irish side has progressed any further.

Last week’s home leg will give Lilywhites supporters plenty of cause for optimism that they could possibly force this tie into extra-time and maybe, just maybe cause the upset of upsets.

Having said all that, the bookies are favouring Qarabag quite comfortably and the odds are very much stacked against their visitors from Louth.

It promises to be a cracking night of European action ahead. Stick with us for the ride, kick-off at the Dalğa Arena is coming up in an hour at 6pm Irish time.

First things first, let’s get started with the team news…

Here’s how both teams will line up this evening. Vinny Perth has made just one change from the first leg, with Daniel Cleary replacing Robbie Benson. The Athlone man has had a terrible time with injuries this season.

Screen Shot 2019-07-31 at 17.06.23

Make no bones about it, it’s a mammoth task ahead for Dundalk. But Vinny Perth and his men can take a huge amount of confidence from their away performance against Riga in the last round.

It’s fair to say Dundalk were disappointed not to score in the opening leg, which ended 0-0 in Oriel. They faced a tough challenge in Riga with their backs against the wall, where they eventually prevailed on spot kicks thanks to some Gary Rogers heroics.

That display away from home showed this side have guts, guile and are able to dig deep when called upon to do so.

Perth has had a number of questions asked of him since succeeding Stephen Kenny, but that penalty win in Latvia really did feel like a performance which showed his critics that this is Perth’s Dundalk, and that they are to be taken seriously on the European stage.

Right, big night ahead, odds stacked against the visitors, a big performance needed, how do we see this one unfolding? Let us know below!


Poll Results:

Dundalk progress (90)
Qarabag progress (80)


Vinny Perth believes his team have got to dream of causing an upset in Baku. Defeat tonight would not mark the end of Dundalk’s European adventures this summer, bear in mind.

Should the Lilywhites exit to Qarabag, they will go into the third round of the Europa League qualifiers instead.

But Perth is not thinking about the possibility of defeat, though. Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, he said his men are focussed on making it through tonight and keeping their Champions League flame burning brightly.

Vinny Perth Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think Qarabag have obviously got a positive result away from home, which puts them in a strong position, but our players believe in ourselves,” Perth said.

“We have to dream. We have to go up another level to compete with Qarabag but, ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do.

“We’re not here for a moral victory. We’re here to reach the next round of the Champions League and we’ll do everything to achieve that goal.”

A quick reminder that tonight’s game is live on the box. Eir Sport have done a brilliant job showcasing the League of Ireland domestically and in European competition and they will be showing Dundalk’s second leg against Qarabag tonight on Eir Sport 1.

Some pre-game reading material (featuring Sean Gannon almost getting arrested in Baku) to sink your teeth into:

Both teams have just finished up their warm-ups and we’re just a few minutes away now. Not that anyone would need much warming up out there, mind. Temperatures in Baku at the moment are 30 degrees. Yikes.

2Mins

Chance! A massive opportunity for Qarabag right from the off. The centre halves are split open thanks to a killer through ball, Mahir Madatov has a free strike at goal and Gary Rogers produces a brilliant low save. A massive let-off.

3Mins

The resulting corner is flashed across goal and the Lilywhites survive another early scare. Vinny Perth’s men were caught napping right from tip-off, with Andy Boyle and Daniel Cleary completely flat-footed to Madatov’s run.

4Mins

Qarabag attack again. Abedellah Zoubir sprints down the left flank and tries to get a cross into the box, but Sean Gannon tracks his man really well and manages to get a block in to force a corner.

5Mins

Gary Rogers was the hero for Dundalk against Riga in that penalty shoot-out and he has stood up to the plate again tonight. Filip Ozonbic’s through ball to Madatov, but the Meath man watched the shot all the way and got a strong hand to the effort. Brilliant goalkeeping.

Gary Rogers encourages his teammates Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

7Mins

Three corners back-to-back for Dundalk and the Lilywhites are battling back at the other end now, finally able to wriggle free ouf of their own half. The third cross sees Sean Hoare completely unmarked and with a free header. But it’s right at goalkeeper Vagner. Either side of Vagner and it might have been 1-0 Dundalk.

8Mins

Crossbar! Another big chance for Qarabag to break the deadlock. A corner swung into the box finds Michel peeling away from his marker, but the midfielder’s effort smashes the woodwork and over the bar. 

11Mins

A quiet passage of play now following a barnstorming opening five minutes. Two big opportunities for the hosts early doors already and it does feel like Dundalk have been hanging in, waiting for the game to settle down a little.

Flag 12Mins

GOAL! QARABAG 1-0 DUNDALK (JAIME 12)

Qarabag lead! The visitors are dealt a big blow with just 12 minutes on the clock in Baku. Some lovely work by Abedellah Zoubir sees him dribble into space before finding Romero Jaime unmarked. He cuts inside onto his left boot and zips a pinpoint effort right into Gary Rogers’ bottom corner.

14Mins

A 1-1 draw tonight would be enough to force extra-time this evening, so if you’re looking at it from a glass half-full point of view, all Dundalk need is a goal. That said, it is a big setback so early in the game and the Lilywhites do look extremely open at the back.

16Mins

Another chance for Qarabag and it very nearly was 2-0 there. A spell of neat passing play on the edge of the Dundalk box sees Abedellah Zoubir free in space. He fires a right-footed strike aiming for Rogers’ bottom corner, but he only finds the side-netting.

19Mins

Very strong start by Qarabag here and already they are imposing themselves on the game, dominating possession, closing down space, applying pressure high up the pitch to win back possession. They are a top side, by all means.

22Mins

Now then, finally a spell for Dundalk to stroke the ball about a little bit. Chris Shields drops deep and tries to link play between Andy Boyle and Daniel Cleary. But straight away Qarabag press high with Madatov and Zoubir and win the ball back.

24Mins

Shot after shot after shot from the hosts. A low ball finds Filip Ozonbic free inside the box. He maneuvers his body well to get a right-footed strike away, but it flies just wide of the post.

Jaime Romero Rodrigues celebrates scoring his sides first goal Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

25Mins

Qarabag forced into an early substitution after just 25 minutes. After that low shot inside the box, Ozonbic appeared to take a knock from behind. It has transpired to be quite a serious knock and he is replaced by Spaniard Dani Quintana off the bench.

27Mins

Dundalk trying to play a bit of football along the deck now. Sean Hoare finds some space down the right channel and feeds a low ball towards Jamie McGrath, but the ball is forced out for a throw-in. A bit better by the Lilywhites.

29Mins

Great defending from Daniel Cleary. Against the run of play Qarabag split the Dundalk defence wide open. Abedellah Zoubir latches onto a through ball after an overlapping run, but Cleary tracks his man and sticks a foot in.

32Mins

Again, taking the glass half-full approach here, Dundalk are doing quite well to limit the damage. Truth be told, Qarabag could (and maybe should) be 2-0 or 3-0 ahead. If Vinny Perth’s men can take this game into the second half knowing one goal will force extra time, they may have a chance.

Pat Hoban with Michel Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

35Mins

Chances have been few and far between for the visitors as we tick past the half-hour mark. Sean Hoare did have a promising free header on target after seven minutes which really would have put the cat amongst the pigeons. But there hasn’t been a Dundalk shot of any significance since.

37Mins

A lot better from Dundalk now. Sean Gannon with a lovely first touch to take the ball down in space after he had bombed forward down the right, as he tends to do. Gannon spun an inviting cross dangerously into the mixer, but Michael Duffy can’t get his head to it. Better, though.

38Mins

Qarabag seem a little bit flustered at the moment. They have enjoyed all the possession and the chances so far, but only have a 1-0 scoreline to show for it. They definitely would have liked to put this tie to bed by half-time.

41Mins

Decent strike from Abedellah Zoubir on the edge of the box. The French midfielder finds time and space on the edge of the area on his own, but completely miss-hits his strike and it floats the wrong side of the post.

Pat Hoban with Jaime Romero Rodrigues Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

43Mins

Jamie McGrath and Sean Gannon combine down the right trying to find some sort of attacking pattern, but McGrath is shoved off the ball and Qarabag fly into another dangerous counter-attack. It’s very difficult for Dundalk out there at the moment in attack.

45Mins

Not long to go before half-time now. After going behind to that lovely Romero Jaime finish after just 12 minutes, Dundalk will be quite happy to still be in this tie. It could have been a lot worse than 1-0.

45Mins

There will be two minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.

Flag 45Mins

HALF-TIME: QARABAG 1-0 DUNDALK

The referee blows his whistle and Dundalk go into the break 1-0 behind. It’s been a long and difficult opening 45 minutes for Vinny Perth’s men, but just a goal down they are still in this tie.

A 1-1 result tonight would force this tie into extra-time and that will very much be the Lilywhites target coming out for the second half. Truth be told, it could have been much, much worse than 1-0 for the visitors.

Qarabag have dominated possession and created almost all the chances. Romero Jaime broke the deadlock after just 12 minutes with a pinpoint low strike from outside the box, but the hosts haven’t been able to build on that lead.

A massive second half in Baku coming up shortly!

47Mins

It’s all about hanging in for as long as possible for Dundalk now, trying to eek out chances where possible and taking those chances when they come, because there won’t be many. Remember, one goal for Dundalk and this game is headed for extra-time.

Seán Hoare and Pat Hoban react at the halftime whistle Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

50Mins

Chance! A big opportunity to make it 2-0 for Qarabag. Neat passing play between Abedellah Zoubir and Dani Quintana sees the Spaniard with a free strike at goal. He makes a decent connection on his right peg, but it takes a deflection and just misses the bottom corner.

52Mins

Another strike and Dundalk are really being pinned back now. Abedellah Zoubir is causing problems every time he touches the ball. This time he ducks challenges, weaving left and right before firing over the bar. Wonderful dribbling and quick feet.

54Mins

Almost an opening for Patrick McEleney, Dundalk’s first chance of the second half but the striker loses his footing just when he might have got a shot away. At the other end Gary Rogers produces a crucial save off his line to deny Zoubir, who is causing problems yet again cutting inside on the left. Rogers just smothered the ball.

55Mins

Rogers appeared to take a slight knock while producing that save. The Meath man goes down looking a bit worse for wear, but thankfully he’s now back on his feet as formidable as ever.

Gary Rogers celebrates his side's second goal Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

57Mins

A first substitution of the evening by Vinny Perth 10 minutes into the second half. Sean Murray replaces Sean Hoare, as Dundalk try and add a bit more flair further up the pitch in midfield.

59Mins

Qarabag toying with Dundalk at the moment, trying to wait for an opening while stroking the ball about under little pressure. Romero Jaime finds space down the left and crosses, but it’s a poor delivery which flies in one end of the box and out the other untouched.

60Mins

A brief pause in play as a Qarabag supporter appears to make his way onto the pitch beside goalkeeper Vagner. The fan runs around swinging his jersey above his head joyfully, before he is led away by an angry-looking security guard.

63Mins

Important interception from Sean Murray just inside the box. A ball pulled back to goalscorer Romero Jaime found the striker free in space ready to have a pop, but Murray did really well to get his body in the way and put Jaime off.

Rahil Mammadov and Patrick McEleney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

64Mins

Great, great save from Gary Rogers to keep the scoreline at 1-0. A header from Ailton is tipped over the crossbar by the Meath man, before another header flies over the bar on it’s own from Rahul Mammadov.

65Mins

A second substitution from Vinny Perth with 25 minutes left on the clock. John Mountney, who scored the winner against St Pat’s on Saturday at Richmond Park in a 1-0 win, replaces Patrick McEleney.

66Mins

Better from Dundalk as Michael Duffy finds some success down the left wing. He beats his man and delivers a cross into the box, but Pat Hoban isn’t there to try and steer an effort on target.

67Mins

Close! Pat Hoban comes within inches of equalising. Sean Gannon does brilliantly down the right to beat his man with supreme pace before fizzing a low ball into the box. Hoban holds off his man and back-heels the ball on target, but goalkeeper Vagner manages to get a hand to it just in the nick of time. That was nearly it.

69Mins

Header from Brazilian defender Ailton is hacked away near the goal-line by a Dundalk boot. Qarabag have been a constant threat from set pieces this evening, always menacing.

72Mins

A pause in play now as Qarabag midfielder Michel goes down requiring some medical attention. Let me tell you, there are some exhausted bodies out there at the moment. It’s about 27 degrees in Baku at the moment are both teams have ran themselves into the ground.

73Mins

Sean Gannon does really well once again down the right flank and succeeds in winning Dundalk a free. It’s a rare opportunity for the Lilywhites to flood bodies forward and carve out a chance for Boyle, Cleary and Hoban, but the cross is poor and beaten away easily.

Flag 76Mins

GOAL! QARABAG 2-0 DUNDALK (AILTON 76)

Qarabag double their lead! It’s a killer blow for Dundalk and this game looks all done and dusted now. A poor clearance by Michael Duffy finds Maksim Medvedev free in space. He crosses into the box and Ailton fires a pinpoint header into the bottom corner. A sucker punch.

78Mins

Dundalk now need two goals in about 12 minutes in order to go through. Two goals would send the Lilywhites through on away goals, but that looks almost impossible now. A lot of deflated Dundalk faces out there in Baku.

80Mins

Vinny Perth makes his third and final switch. Daniel Kelly replaces Michael Duffy for the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time. Qarabag look home and hosed at the minute, Ailton’s header all but sealing their passage through to the third qualifying round.

82Mins

Dundalk going forward in search of a goal knowing they have nothing to lose. Second-half introduction John Mountney picks up the ball in acres of space. He has team-mates to pass to but decides to have a pop at goal, but his effort is easily headed clear.

84Mins

The life has been sucked out of this game now, Qarabag trying to waste a little bit of time while still in possession and Dundalk desperately trying to carve out a chance. They need two goals to go through, but time is very much against them.

86Mins

Dani Quintana almost makes it 3-0. The ball is pulled back to the Spaniard on his own, unmarked in the box. He strikes at target and beats Gary Rogers, but Andy Boyle did brilliantly to get back on his own goal-line and heroically head clear. Brilliant defending from the former Preston centre back.

Flag

GOAL! QARABAG 3-0 DUNDALK (JAIME 87)

Qarabag grab a third and put this tie beyond any reasonable doubt. Some more excellent work by Abedellah Zoubir down the left cuts Dundalk to pieces. He crosses into the box where Romero Jaime is free. He taps a simple finish underneath Gary Rogers with his second goal of the evening.

90Mins

As Dundalk tried to push men forward in search of a goal to halve the deficit, they were always going to leave space in behind. That has proved to be the case and you just cannot give a player of Zoubir’s quality that kind of space in attack. A minute of normal time to go.

90Mins

There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.

90Mins

Save! A super stop from Gary Rogers denies Richard Almeida the chance to make it 4-0. Once again it’s more good play from Zoubir to set his team-mate up. Almeida has a free strike at goal and tries to curl the ball into Rogers’ top corner, but the goalkeeper springs across with cat-like reflexes and palms the ball behind for a corner.

Flag 90Mins

FULL-TIME: QARABAG 3-0 DUNDALK

Norwegian referee Svein Moen blows his whistle for full-time and Dundalk’s Champions League adventure comes to an end in the second qualifying round.

Qarabag win 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate to progress through. The Azerbaijani champions were just of a superior quality from start to finish, with a double from Romero Jaime and another from Brazilian defender Ailton sealing a comfortable win.

It’s not the end of European football this summer for Dundalk, though. Vinny Perth’s men now go into the third round of the Europa League qualifiers, where they will now face Slovan Bratislava.

Thanks a million for joining us this evening — cya soon!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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