A late first half strike from Luka Kerin and late second half goals from Dario Vizinger and Filip Dangubic meant that Dundalk crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the hands of NK Celje who beat the Louth side 3-0 in Hungary.
Dundalk controlled a lot of the game and came close to an equaliser at 1-0 down on numerous occasions but ultimately succumbed to the Slovenian champions.
Vizinger had the first effort of the game after 15 minutes, but his 25-yard shot went well wide of Gary Rogers’ goal.
The Lilywhites almost took the lead after 19 minutes, as Brian Gartland rose highest to meet Stefan Colovic’s cross, but his header hit the crossbar before falling away to safety.
A couple of minutes later Kadusic tried to play in Ivan Bozic, but Rogers raced off his line and claimed the ball before the attacker.
Dundalk fashioned another chance ten minutes before the break when Sean Gannon’s cross found Michael Duffy at the far post, but his header was easily saved by Matjaz Rozman.
Two minutes before the break and despite controlling most of the ball Dundalk fell behind.
Chris Shields’ sliding pass towards Gartland was intercepted by Kerin as the defender slipped. Kerin then played the ball slowly past Rogers and into the net.
The Lilywhites number one would have felt that he should’ve done better.
Moments after the break and another Gartland error almost put the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions two behind, as the Dundalk defender headed a cross towards his own goal, only for Rogers to palm the ball to safety.
After 51 minutes the Lilywhites put the ball in the net through Patrick Hoban, but it was rightly disallowed after the striker fouled Rozman in the Celje goal.
Jordan Flores tried his luck with a wonderful effort just before the hour mark, as he saw his shot from long range tipped around the post by Rozman after a lay off from Duffy.
A minute later and Duffy should’ve equalised for Dundalk, as after being played through by Shields, he dragged his shot wide of the far post from ten yards.
Celje could have doubled their lead on the hour mark when Vizinger headed Bozic’s cross goalwards, only for Rogers to tip the ball to safety.
With ten minutes to go Duffy had another chance, as he got on the end of Gannon’s cross, but the winger’s effort was deflected into the arms of Rozman.
With four minutes to go Dundalk were very unlucky not to equalise, as Duffy’s 20-yard free kick hit off the wall and fell to the head of Hoban, who saw his effort come back off the post.
A couple of minutes later and Celje scored their second and sealed Dundalk’s fate against the run of play.
Lotric took advantage of a poor Sean Hoare pass before exchanging passes with Vizinger, who eventually tapped the ball into an empty net from five yards.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time Celje made it three, as Lotric’s free kick was palmed straight to substitute Dangubic, who scored past Rogers from two yards out.
Dundalk will now drop into the Europa League while Celje advance to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League where they will take on Molde.
NK Celje: Matjaz Rozman; Zan Zanatel, Denis Marandici, Advan Kadusic, Josip Calusic; Matic Vrbanec (Nino Pungarsek 86), Lan Stravs, Luka Kerin, Ivan Bozic (Jakob Novak 82); Dario Vizinger (Filip Dangubic 90).
Subs not used: Denis Straus, Dusan Stojinovic, Metod Jurhar, Amadej Brecl.
Booked: Luka Kerin (20).
Sent off: None.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Darragh Leahy, Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland (Nathan Oduwa 76), Sean Gannon; Patrick McEleney, Jordan Flores (Sean Murray 69); Patrick Hoban, Michael Duffy, Stefan Colovic.
Subs not used: John Mountney, Aaron McCarey, Daniel Kelly, Daniel Cleary.
Booked: Sean Gannon (3) ,Chris Shields (48).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Vitor Fernandes Ferreira
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Zan Zanatel (NK Celje).