Tuesday 18 December 2018

First half horror show in Cyprus brings Dundalk's European adventure to an end

AEK Larnaca 4 Dundalk 0

2 August 2018; Patrick Hoban of Dundalk reacts to a missed chance on goal during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round 2nd Leg match between AEK Larnaca and Dundalk at the AEK Arena in Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
2 August 2018; Patrick Hoban of Dundalk reacts to a missed chance on goal during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round 2nd Leg match between AEK Larnaca and Dundalk at the AEK Arena in Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A first half horror show brought an abrupt end to Dundalk's European campaign on a sobering evening in Cyprus for the League of Ireland leaders.

Stephen Kenny's side were picked apart by an AEK Larnaca side that advance to face Austria's Sturm Graz in the third qualifying round.

They had travelled with confidence after last week's scoreless draw in Oriel Park, but that melted away in the heat of an opening 45 that was played in temperatures of 32 degrees.

The elements were a factor, but they don't excuse the errors that gave an understrength Larnaca side a three goal interval lead and full control of the tie.

Dundalk were consistently exposed down the right flank where Sean Hoare toiled, although he wasn't exactly helped by the players around him.

Macedonian international Ivan Trickovski slipped into the space behind the defender to open the scoring in the 13th minute with Larnaca capitalising after a Dundalk counter attack had broken down.

Spanish winger Tete was the real thorn in Hoare's side, causing problems from his berth on the left wing and Larnaca consistently tried to angle the ball in his direction.

The second goal came from that route with a long ball from Truyols finding Tete who controlled to chip over Gary Rogers with Hoare in no-man's land.

Tete delivered the assist for the third goal, with his cross converted at the second attempt by Trickovski after Rogers blocked his initial header.

Dundalk had a valid shout for a penalty waved away before that strike when Jamie McGrath went down in the box, with Larnaca temporarily switching off. But the visitors' execution of dead balls and basic passes was sluggish.

Kenny took action at the break, introducing Patrick McEleney and Sean Gannon in a double substitution and the performance level improved. Hoare was moved to centre half in place of Daniel Cleary, with Gannon shoring things up at right full and McEleney helping Dundalk hold onto the ball in midfield.

Dundalk finally began to threaten consistently although Larnaca's defending was astute and they actually could have added to their lead when Trickovski struck the post. Pat Hoban and sub Dane Massey - who came in after Hoare picked up an injury - missed the target with headers. 

But Dundalk lacked real incision in the final third and Larnaca put an even more emphatic look on the scoreline at the death when sub Joan Tomas struck with his first touch.

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