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Saturday 3 December 2016

Dundalk down but not out of Europe

Defensive error gifts BATE a goal but Kenny hopeful for home leg

Patrick Barrett, Andy Boyle, Robert Benson, and Dane Massey of Dundalk in action against Aleksandr Karnitski of BATE Borisov during the Champions League third qualifying round first leg match at the Borisov Arena. Photo: Sportsfile
Patrick Barrett, Andy Boyle, Robert Benson, and Dane Massey of Dundalk in action against Aleksandr Karnitski of BATE Borisov during the Champions League third qualifying round first leg match at the Borisov Arena. Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk’s Dane Massey challenges Aleksei Rios of BATE Borisov for the ball. Photo: Sportsfile

Beaten on the night in Belarus but no no means out of the Champions League.

And Stephen Kenny feels that his Dundalk side will still have a say in this competition for the second leg of their third qualifying round battle with BATE Borisov despite a 1-0 away loss last night.

No one in the Dundalk camp will really celebrate defeat but a 1-0 loss in Borisov could have been a lot worse - BATE hit the crossbar twice and needed keeper Gary Rogers to pull off a number of saves - and while BATE are of course favourites to advance to the play-off round, still one stage away from the group phase, the 1-0 deficit is not insurmountable.

And BATE were fortunate to avoid a red card as Maksim Zhavnerchik could have been dismissed on 28 minutes when he led with the elbow while challenging Stephen O'Donnell.

The biggest regret for Dundalk is that their wound was self-inflicted as a sloppy clearance in defence from full back Sean Gannon carved out the opening BATE needed on 70 minutes. Gannon's poor ball gifted possession to Aleksandr Hleb who set up fellow sub Mikhail Gordeichuk to score.

Gordeichuk seems to like Irish opposition as he scored for the Belarus national side in their win over Ireland in Cork and the questions in the BATE camp will be how they failed to get more than one goal.

The consolation for Dundalk is that they can play better - cutting out errors like the one which led to the BATE goal and also some better ball retention would give Dundalk a chance for the home leg, in Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday.

Moving out of Tallaght Stadium is unavoidable due to UEFA restrictions but the venue has been an unhappy one for Irish clubs in Europe - St Patrick's Athletic have lost their recent Euro games in Tallaght when they were forced to move out of Richmond Park.

But a tighter display by Dundalk, a full dose of calm nerves and better supply to in-form front man David McMillan would at least give Kenny's men a chance of repeating his feat with Bohemians in this competition a decade ago, overturning a 1-0 loss away to BATE and earning a home win in the second leg and more Euro progress.

The crowd of 11,319 in Borisov were puzzled as to how the game was scoreless at half time as Dundalk had to absorb almost persistent pressure in that first 45 minutes.

The home side almost went in front on 11 minutes when Dundalk defender Paddy Barrett saw his clearance in the box, while under pressure from Rodionov, come off the crossbar.

The only respite for Dundalk came on 35 minutes when they broke free, Daryl Horgan sprinting forward and setting up Robbie Benson, who saw his shot saved by national team keeper Sergei Veremko.

Winger Igor Stasevic was a constant threat to Dundalk, right back Gannon being made to work hard and boss Kenny tried to change things for the second half, bringing on Chris Shields and John Mountney for the second period.

But it was more of the same, pressure for the home side and the need for Dundalk to somehow absorb that.

Twice in the early stages of the second half, Mirko Ivanic and Stasevic forced saves from Rogers while on 59 minutes Rogers was needed again, this time to deny the ever-impressive Stasevic.

Gordeichuk finally broke the deadlock just after the hour mark but even though BATE had more possession subsequently against a tiring Dundalk side, they were unable to add more goals.

That was largely down to Rogers who was called on again late on, making saves in the final minutes from Dobra and Stasevic.

Regret for BATE that they didn't score more, regret for Dundalk about their part in the goal, now it all moves on to Tallaght next week.

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