Saturday 21 April 2018

Dundalk facing mission impossible in Warsaw as Legia seize momentum

Dundalk 0 Legia Warsaw 2

Nemanja Nikolić of Leiga Warsaw scores his team's opening goal from the penalty spot past Gary Rogers of Dundalk FC during the UEFA Champions League Play Off 1st Leg. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Nemanja Nikolić of Leiga Warsaw scores his team's opening goal from the penalty spot past Gary Rogers of Dundalk FC during the UEFA Champions League Play Off 1st Leg. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jake O'Donnell

Dundalk’s Champions League dream took a big blow tonight as they lost out by two goals to Legia Warsaw.

Vital strikes from Nemanja Nikolić and Aleksander Prijovic proved enough for Legia to give Dundalk a tough task heading into the second leg next week.

Steeven Langil’s dangerous play all night reaped its reward after his shot struck the hand of Andy Boyle in the Dundalk penalty area, allowing striker Nikolić to score from the penalty spot. And a late goal from substitute Prijovic in the dying moments of the game may prove vital next week.

Patrick McEleney had the first chance of the game when he met full back Sean Gannon’s cross from the right flank. His header caused Legia goalkeeper Malarz to jump but it was realistically always going over.

Daryl Horgan’s energy down the right flank caused Legia problems all through the first half, and he nearly caught out keeper Malarz, with a cross that was hit too deep, but Malarz managed to scramble back and tip it away.

A very similar cross from Legia’s right-winger Langil forced Dundalk’s goalkeeper Gary Rogers into an identical save just ten minutes later.

Legia settled into the game late into the half and had their first dangerous chance when striker Nikolić, while chasing a ball into the box managed to pull it back first time to wide-man Kucharczyk, his half volley however, failed to test Rogers as it skidded wide of his post.

Dundalk started the second half as they did the first with an early chance, when Horgan in the centre of the Legia half floated a ball towards the back post. The cross led to the first attempt on goal but Chris Shield’s headed effort was easily caught by Malarz.

Shields turned provider a minute later when an opening in midfield allowed him to surge to the edge of the box before passing out right to Horgan, whose shot was collected comfortably by Malarz.

The game took a turn for the worst for Dundalk on 55 minutes as Langil’ shot in the box was judged to have hit the hand of Andy Boyle as he turned his back to block the shot, and German referee Aytekin awarded a penalty. Dundalk fans felt the decision was soft and let their boos be heard as Nikolić slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner for his fifth European goal this season.

Legia’s goal gave them the confidence to begin to dominate the night’s proceedings, as they sprung together several good chances from wide men Kucharczyk and Langil in quick succession.

Dundalk’s defence had been solid up until the goal, and again proved capable to stand strong under a period of intense pressure from Legia, as they started to look like a top European side.

Dundalk finished the game strong with attacking substitutes Robert Benson, Ronan Finn and Ciaran Kilduff all doing their best to get an equaliser. Striker Kilduff came the closest but was unlucky after some slick midfield passing led to a flashing effort in the box just going over.

Dundalk suffered a cruel goal in the last seconds of the game as substitute Prijovic found himself through on goal, and he coolly dinked the ball over the on-rushing Rogers, leaving Dundalk with an uphill task as they fly over to Warsaw for the second leg next week.

Dundalk FC – Rogers, Gannon, Barrett, Boyle, Massey; O’Donnell, Shields (Benson 77); Mountney (Finn 63), McEleney, Horgan; McMillan (Kilduff 79).

Legia Warsaw – Malarz, Broź, Pazdan, Lewczuk, Hloušek; Jodlowiec; Langil (Alexandrov 88), Odjidja, (Kopczyński 76), Moulin, Kucharczyk; Nikolić (Prijovic 83).

Referee – D. Aytekin (GER).

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