Thursday 27 October 2016

Boyle confident Lilies can score and scare Legia

Dundalk defender Andy Boyle is confident his side can score and make life difficult for Legia Warsaw in their Champions League play-off second leg clash in Poland tonight.
Dundalk defender Andy Boyle is confident his side can score and make life difficult for Legia Warsaw in their Champions League play-off second leg clash in Poland tonight.

Dundalk need a miracle to progress to the group stages of the Champions League as they bid to overturn a two goal deficit in Warsaw tonight.

But centre half Andy Boyle has stressed that it will only be possible if they are prepared to leave themselves open to punishment in the second leg of their play-off tie.

That is the message which their manager Stephen Kenny pressed home in the aftermath of the deflating 2-0 reverse at the Aviva Stadium which arose from a controversial penalty and the concession of a stoppage time goal as they went in search of an equaliser.

Boyle was adjudged to have committed a handball at the key stage of the game and admits that it took the group a day to get over the disappointment.

However, they have arrived in Poland with a determination to ensure that they will approach the second game in a manner that will leave them with no regrets. A cautious strategy that would ensure nothing more than a respectable defeat is not on Boyle's agenda.


"There's no point us trying to keep it tight and dying a slow death in the game," says the Dubliner. "We have players in the team that can hurt players at any level, like Daryl Horgan and Patrick McEleney in the first leg.

"We have goals throughout the team and, while a clean sheet is a big part of it, we're confident we can score goals and make it difficult for them."

Kenny has preached that message, although the loss of captain Stephen O'Donnell to suspension and second striker Ciaran Kilduff to injury has weakened his options ahead of the showdown at the 31,000 capacity Polish Army Stadium.

"There maybe is a consensus that maybe we should try and keep it 0-0 for a long period and in the last 20 minutes see if we can penetrate and have a go," said Kenny. "But that's not in my thinking.

"My attitude to the players is get the first goal and see where it takes us. Just get the first goal. I understand that playing that way that there could be consequences, I'm not naive. It could leave us exposed. I'm thinking that we have to do something remarkable. We are going to have to play brilliantly."

Legia Warsaw are seeking to make a historic breakthrough in their centenary year. It's 21 years since they qualified for the group stages and that has been their sole focus in the early weeks of their campaign.

Coach Besnik Hasi - who was appointed over the summer with the brief of making the Champions League - showed where his immediate priorities lie by making ten changes for Saturday's league encounter with Arka Gdynia. They paid the penalty by suffering a 3-1 defeat. In Kenny's eyes, it demonstrated that Legia have not fallen into the trap of believing that they are halfway there.


No Irish side has ever come back from two goals down after the first leg, but Dundalk nearly achieved it two years ago when a 2-0 home defeat to Hadjuk Split in the Europa League was followed by a 2-1 triumph in Croatia where they piled on pressure in the dying stages in search of the goal that would have put them through. Remarkably, they conceded first in that match too.

"I'm not putting an overfocus on the Hajduk Split game because Legia Warsaw are a better side overall and this is their big day to get into the Champions League," said Kenny. "One thing that happens and it's difficult to explain is the psychological shift that goals can bring. We experienced that in Split. We got one goal and our players got an upsurge in confidence. They started backing off us a bit and then we got another goal and then suddenly they became so defensive in their thinking."

Shifting pressure onto Legia is the only way they will be able to keep their €15m Champions League dream alive.

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