Wednesday 13 December 2017

'We're always in the shadow of the English teams' - Stephen Kenny comes out fighting

Gary Rogers of Dundalk after the UEFA Europa League defeat against Zenit St Petersburg
Gary Rogers of Dundalk after the UEFA Europa League defeat against Zenit St Petersburg
Stephen Kenny firmly believes his Dundalk side are still in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Aidan Fiztmaurice

With Manchester United on the verge of exiting the Europa League, Stephen Kenny firmly believes his Dundalk side are in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages despite a 2-1 loss to Zenit in Russia last night.

A goal in each half from Brazilian international Giuliano, with an equaliser from Daryl Horgan in between means Dundalk have lost both games to Zenit, but with AZ Alkmaar and Maccabi Tel Aviv drawing 0-0, second spot in the group is still up for grabs for Dundalk who lie third.

"We're always in the shadow of the English teams but we're emerging as a team who are forging their own identity on the European stage and people are relating to us across Europe," Kenny said.

Kenny added: "They see a team with very small resources overcoming the odds against some of the great European teams and matching them.

"The journey doesn't have to stop over the course of the next couple of games, we believe we can qualify for the last 32.

"We're quite disappointed to lose; we understand that Zenit were the better team and deserved to win and that's not in question.

"But Daryl's goal was so exceptional, it deserved to get a result, that goal itself.

"And, when went 2-1 behind, Patrick's effort hit the crossbar. It would have been a terrific moment to equalise at 2-2 with the game nearly up.

"We hit the woodwork twice here and in Dublin the woodwork also denied us at crucial times.

"We probably needed everything to go for us to get a result. We are disappointed but we can take encouragement from the performance," added Kenny, who must now turn his thoughts towards preparing his players for Sunday's FAI Cup final before their final two games in the Europa League, at home to AZ Alkmaar and away to Maccabi.

"There are two games left and it's still in our own hands. AZ have to come to Dublin and we have to go to Israel. It looks like it will go down to the last game, and the margins are very narrow."

Horgan, meanwhile, insisted that his first goal in European competition would not have any real meaning for him unless Dundalk progress.

"Maybe when I retire I'll be able to look back at it fondly, but if we get out of the group it will mean more," he said.

"We can always score goals - it's one of the great attributes of this team. There are goals from everywhere and that's all based on solid shape.

"No-one would have given us a chance to get anything against Zenit at the start of the group.

"To play them twice, and to twice be only the width of a post away from getting something, it's tough to take."

Irish Independent

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