Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Dundalk will travel to Estonia next week very much in this tie but will feel they should be taking a lead into the second leg of this Europa Conference League second qualifying round tie.
However, having fallen behind twice in the first half the 2-2 draw is certainly something they can build on in Tallinn but it was a case of what might have been in Tallaght on Thursday night particularly after a second half which they dominated.
It was quite the opening half as twice Dundalk came from behind to equalise in what was a very open – way too open from a Vinny Perth perspective – first 45 minutes.
It took less than two minutes for the visitors to grab the first goal of the game as Ernest Agyiri took on the Lilywhite defence down the left and he squared for Bogdan Vastsuk to beat Alessio Abbibi with a low drive.
However they only had the lead for a little more than 60 seconds as the very impressive Will Patching found Dundalk’s first equaliser of the first half firing home Daniel Kelly’s centre from the right.
Remarkably in the next move of the match only a fine Abibi save putting the ball behind for a corner prevented the Lilywhites going behind again off Ernest Agyiri’s shot.
Things did settle down somewhat after that with Daniel Kelly seeing plenty of the ball out wide but at times Dundalk were too pedestrian in the centre of the park and in particular Wilfried Zahibo.
Dundalk were punished by allowing the team from Tallinn come through the middle of the Tallaght Stadium pitch on 19 minutes as Vastsuk grabbed his second goal of the evening.
David McMillan broke the goalscoring record for a League of Ireland player in Europe last week and he made his European tally 13 goals just before the half hour mark. He rounded off a decent Dundalk move involving Patching and Raivis Jurkovskis who provided the final pass to the striker to make it 2-2.
Patching’s corner kicks did cause the away team difficulty and when one of his set pieces came back towards him late in the half he went down under a challenge but the Czech referee Miroslav Zelinka waved play on.
With the game played out in 20 degree weather and with a fairly frenetic pace everyone was thankful of the breather that the half time break gave the teams. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising then that the second half wasn’t as spectacular. The biggest cheer of the half came from the home supporters – numbering a bit less than the COVID-19 allowed 1,000 capacity - when Perth withdrew Zahibo and brought the greater penetrationof Greg Sloggett into his midfield.
Levadia had forced Abibi into a save pushing away Vastsuk’s effort but that was as close as they came and they seemed happy enough to sit off Dundalk at times defending the draw to take back to the A. Le Coq Arena next week.
Patching’s set pieces really should have been exploited by Dundalk in a better manner in the second 45 but McMillan certainly felt he should have been handed a penalty after a shove in the back caused him to misdirect his header off a Patching corner.
In injury time Patrick McEleney danced diagonally across the Lavadia defence and his shot on target was tipped over the bar by Vallner much to the disappointment of the Dundalk supporters but they couldn’t get the win at the death.
Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Raivis Jurkovskis, Andy Boyle (c), Sonni Nattestad, Darragh Leahy; Will Patching, Wilfried Zahibo (Greg Sloggett 59), Sam Stanton (Sean Murray 76); Daniel Kelly, David McMillan (Ole Erik Midtskogen 86), Patrick McEleney.
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie, Niall Brady, Cameron Dummigan, Han Jeongwoo, Ryan O'Kane, Mark Hanratty, Val Adedokun.
Booked: Daniel Kelly (45), Sonni Nattetad (90).
Levadia Tallinn: Karl Vallner; Ilja Antonov (Trevor Elhi 56), Maximiliano Ugge, Maksim Podholjuzin, Milijan Ilic (Rasmus Peetson 46); Frank Liivak (Karl Rudolf Oigus 79), Marko Putincanin, Brent Lepistu (c), Bogdan Vastsuk, Ernest Agyiri (Mark Oliver Roosnupp 67); Zakaria Beglarishvili (Robert Kirss 67).
Subs not used: Artur Kotenko, Milan Mitrovic, Markus Jurgenson, Hannes Anier, Amar Yunis Abdallah, Luka Lukovic.
Booked: Brent Lepistu (35), Maksim Podholjuzin (58), Zakaria Beglarishvili (62), Rasmus Peetson (68), Trevor Elhi (88).
Referee: Miroslav Zelinka (Czechia).
Attendance: 900 (estimate).
extratime.com Player of the Match: David McMillan (Dundalk).