Europa League Report: Dundalk 2 - 1 Levadia Tallinn (Dundalk win 3-1 on aggregate)Thu, Jul 19 2018
Niall Newberry reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk ensured there will be one League of Ireland side in the second qualifying round of the Europa League after they secured a 2-1 win over a plucky Levadia Tallinn side at Oriel Park on Thursday night .
The Lilywhites finished the job they started in the Estonian capital last week thanks to quickfire goals from Patrick Hoban and Michael Duffy, before Roman Debelko gave Levadia a glimmer of hope right before the half-time break.
Dundalk were unchanged from the side that recorded a priceless 1-0 win in Tallinn last week, while Levadia made just one alteration with former Bosnia & Herzegovina international Muamer Svraka replacing Rasmus Peetson in midfield.
Much like the first leg, the Estonian side came out of the blocks straight away and Yuriy Tkachuk had the game’s first shot, which sailed over the bar after what was some good early pressure.
The hosts' first chance of the evening came when Robbie Benson retrieved the ball in a dangerous position before feeding Hoban, but the League of Ireland’s top scorer’s low shot was straight at Sergei Lepmets.
Oriel Park erupted just past the half-hour mark as Dundalk took the lead with what was their first effort on target. Sean Gannon’s beautiful cross from the right was met by Hoban, whose header went in past the helpless Levadia keeper via the inside of the post.
The final of this year’s Europa League does not take place until next May but you will be stretched to see a better goal before that than Dundalk’s second which came just two minutes after the first.
Hoban won the ball before finding Jamie McGrath in midfield, and his pinpoint diagonal ball from the right was met by a first-time volley on his left foot by Duffy – a goal of the highest quality truly befitting a player having the season Duffy’s had.
The visitors were left reeling after that but didn’t give up, to their credit, and Marcellin Gando had a goal disallowed for offside soon after, much to the frustration of Levadia boss Alexander Rogic.
Levadia did get themselves right back in the tie four minutes before half-time though when Debelko, who’s scored 16 goals in 18 appearances in the Estonian league this season, skipped the challenge of several Dundalk defenders before rifling past Gary Rogers.
There was still time for more chances at either end before the break with Nikita Andreev’s shot having to be saved by Rogers before Gannon’s deflected effort fell kindly into the arms of Lepmets.
Levadia continued to search for second goal after the restart and Debelko saw his shot flash across goal and out of play before Svraka could only hit the ball straight at Rogers after Sean Hoare had blocked Debelko’s initial effort.
Dundalk should’ve made the game safe three minutes from time after a nice exchange between McGrath and Hoban saw the latter fire a low cross into the box which evaded everyone including Benson who just needed an inch.
It mattered not however, as Dundalk showed impeccable professionalism to see out what has been a difficult assignment over the past two weeks and set up a second qualifying round tie with Cypriot outfit AEK Larnaca.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Dylan Connolly (Krisztian Adorjan 62), Chris Shields, Robbie Benson, Michael Duffy (Karolis Chvedukas 83); Jamie McGrath, Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 90+2).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis, Ronan Murray.
Booked: Robbie Benson (19), Brian Gartland (42).
Levadia Tallinn: Sergei Lepmets; Markus Jurgenson (Rasmus Peetson 87), Igor Dudarev, Maksim Podholjuzin, Dmitri Kruglov; Marcellin Gando (Mark Oliver Roosnupp 64), Yuriy Tkachuk, Muamer Svraka, Jevgeni Harin (Krill Nesterov 80); Roman Debelko, Nikita Andreev.
Subs not used: Priit Pikker (gk), Igor Morozov, Pavel Marin, Pavel Domov.
Booked: Nikita Andreev (11), Roman Debelko (19), Maksim Podholjuzin (24), Jevgeni Harin (35), Yuriy Tkachuk (85).
Referee: Adrien Jaccottet (Switzerland).
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Michael Duffy (Dundalk).