Monday 19 August 2019

Slovan's late strike breaks Dundalk resistance

Heroic Rogers finally beaten as Lilies now turn attention to return leg in Tallaght

So close: Dundalk’s Andy Boyle can’t hide his frustration after missing a chance against Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile
So close: Dundalk’s Andy Boyle can’t hide his frustration after missing a chance against Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The timing of the goal, four minutes from the final whistle, will leave a sour taste for Dundalk as they try to find a way of staying in Europe for another couple of weeks.

But if they are honest, the Co Louth club can have no complaints about coming away from Slovakia with a defeat to Slovan Bratislava, the home side's dominance finally winning out with a goal from Hungarian playmaker David Holman.

Dundalk had to absorb pressure for long spells but they stayed in the game, before that late goal, thanks to half a dozen saves from goalkeeper Gary Rogers.

Dundalk were also fortunate in that French referee Frank Schneider, to the frustration of the home support in the crowd of 9,980, waved away three penalty claims for the Slovakian side.

Unlucky

"I'm disappointed to concede a late goal, there were a lot of chances and they had more but we are still in the tie, and we take it to Tallaght next week," said Dundalk boss Vinny Perth before a late-night flight back to Ireland.

Michael Duffy of Dundalk in action against Leo Myenty Janna Abena of SK Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile
Michael Duffy of Dundalk in action against Leo Myenty Janna Abena of SK Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile

"You could see what a partisan crowd can do, and we need that next week, we need Irish football behind us next week, there is a positive result there for us.

"We have had big European nights before and we need one of them now. It's half-time and the game is in the balance."

The away side did have their chances; Michael Duffy with a good effort in the first half while Sean Murray and Jamie McGrath both went close in the second half, when the tie was at 0-0, but Holman was the only man to score over 90 minutes, Dundalk unlucky late on to see John Mountney's header saved.

Even before a ball was kicked, Dundalk had an idea that they were going to be tested. Slovan had four senior international players in their starting XI and an annual budget of €10m.

Andy Boyle of Dundalk in action against Vasil Bozhikov of SK Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile
Andy Boyle of Dundalk in action against Vasil Bozhikov of SK Slovan Bratislava. Photo: Vid Ponikvar/Sportsfile

On the other hand, Slovan are a side who were knocked out of the Champions League by a Montenegrin club who lost at home to Linfield this week, so there was a fear that Dundalk could show Slovan too much respect.

But on the pitch Dundalk had a battle too, penned back and feeding off scraps for long spells before they burst into life on the half-hour mark when goalkeeper Dominik Greif was forced into a save from Duffy's shot.

Up to that point it had been all about the home side with Dundalk simply unable to win possession.

Heat was a factor but Dundalk did get to grips with the climate and the oppressive possession by Slovan, the away side bursting into attack on 30 minutes when Mountney slid the ball out to Duffy and his effort was on target, needing that save from Greif.

Slovan regained control after that spell but they lacked what was needed to make possession count, Marin Ljubicic wasting an opportunity on 32 minutes.

Slovan looked to be fired up when they reappeared for the second half, anger among the home support on 48 minutes when the French referee waved away appeals for a penalty for an apparent hand ball by Boyle, the first of three possible hand ball infringements by the defender which the official didn't spot, or punish.

Dundalk were lucky to survive a triple threat on 49 minutes, as a save by Rogers, a block by Boyle and then, finally, a shot into the side netting by Jurji Medvedev frustrated the home side.

At the other end Dundalk could have taken a shock lead on 61 minutes as Patrick Hoban's clever ball into the box landed at the feet of McGrath but the Meath man seemed to be surprised he was in so much space and there was no conviction in his shot.

Slovan felt that Dundalk were there for the taking but to the frustration of the home fans, still angry at a first-round exit in the Champions League, they were unable to do much about it.

Rogers saved a shot from Andraz Sporar and, soon after, another save from the veteran goalkeeper denied a headed effort from Myenty Abena.

Slovan emptied their bench and it was one of their subs who teed up the key goal; Dejan Drazic with a well-struck effort on 85 minutes which came off the post but first to react was the classy Holman and he fired home.

There was almost a reprieve for Dundalk in the final minute as Mountney tried his luck with a header, Greif making the save and Slovan will feel they are now in the driving seat to advance to the next round and a meeting with Ajax or PAOK, unless Dundalk can come up with a Tallaght strategy for the home leg on Tuesday.

SLOVAN BRATISLAVA - Greif; Medvedev, Bozikov, Abena, De Marco; de Kamps; Ljubcic, Ratao (Drazic 67), Holman; Moha (Daniel 77), Sporar (Cavric 80).

DUNDALK - Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Boyle, Massey; Shields (Dummigan 88); Mountney, McGrath, Murray (McEleney 70), Duffy; Hoban (D Kelly 88).

REF - F Schneider (France)

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