Dundalk earn crack at AEK Larnaca with hard fought victory over Levadia Tallinn
Dundalk 2 Levadia Tallinn 1 (Dundalk win 3-1 on aggregate)
There was relief for Dundalk as they earned a place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, and a date with Cypriot side AEK Larnaca next week, but Stephen Kenny's outfit had to work hard for their passage to round two.
The Lilywhites won the second leg at Oriel Park last night 2-1, 3-1 on aggregate, but there were plenty of nervy moments, though the onlooking Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill must have been impressed with attacker Michael Duffy, who scored a stunning goal.
Levadia, seeking to overcome a 1-0 deficit form their home leg, were putting up a real challenge to Dundalk before nerves were eased with two goals in the space of two minutes.
Pat Hoban headed home a Sean Gannon cross on 31 minutes and two minutes later Duffy volleyed home, Jamie McGarth with the pass, a stunning finish from the former Northern Ireland U21 cap who is keen to play for the Republic.
But Levadia had spirit about them, seeing a 38th minute goal disallowed before forward Roman Debelko ran through and fired in a vital away goal for the Estonians on 42 minutes.
Levadia retained possession for long spells in the second half, Debelko a threat on more than one occasion and Dundalk needed strong work in defence from Sean Gannon and Brian Gartland, with the back four shielded by Chris Shields, as they managed to frustrate the Estonians and advance to round two, first up a home leg with Larnaca next Thursday.
Pick that out! What a goal from Michael Duffy. @DundalkFC lead Levadia Tallinn 2-1 at Oriel Park (3-1 on aggregate) and you'll do very well to find a better finish anywhere in Europe tonight than this peach of a volley #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/ArDW8MxkAt— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) July 19, 2018