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Thursday 19 April 2018

Dundalk dream of Celtic tie has ended

Kenny's men battle bravely but succumb to Rosenborg's knockout blow in extra-time

Ciaran Kilduff sees a chance go abegging against Rosenborg. Photo: Andrew Budd/Sportsfile
Ciaran Kilduff sees a chance go abegging against Rosenborg. Photo: Andrew Budd/Sportsfile
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny applauds the Dundalk supporters in the Lerkendal Stadium after last night’s defeat. Photo: Andrew Budd/Sportsfile
Brian Gartland (hidden from view) heads home Dundalk’s opener in the Champions League second qualifying round second leg clash with Rosenborg in Trondheim. Photo: Andrew Budd/Sportsfile

This year, there will be no European run for Dundalk.

The journey home from Norway last year will be their last overseas journey until 12 months from now when it's likely they will be competing in the Europa League.

For the 'gutted' Stephen Kenny, this extra-time defeat is a major comedown from the highs of 2016. And what makes it much worse is that his team came so close to knocking out Rosenborg and setting up a fascinating tie with Celtic.

Instead, they will wait to see if Shamrock Rovers go through in the Czech Republic tonight. If not, their next game will be an Oriel Park meeting with a different set of Hoops on Sunday.

"It's disappointing," said Kenny. "It's tough for us to come to a club like Rosenborg, 20,000 (at their games) every week. There is nothing between the teams and yet we are playing in bloody Oriel Park, very limited facilities, and we are coming to grounds like this. The players deserve to be playing on stages like this.

Clear

"They showed that last year and they showed it over two legs. We've gone out on the margins here and it's very hard to take. Rosenborg are a very good team, a lot of international players, great pedigree, but over the two legs we were unfortunate to go out. To go through wouldn't have flattered us. We are disappointed, very very disappointed. The goals we conceded before half-time in both games killed us."

They came desperately close, although the better side on the night did go through.

After a dreadfully poor opening half hour, Rosenborg finally showed why they were the seeded operation and comfortably clear in the Norwegian league.

They restricted Dundalk to very few chances and owned the ball. But the few chances Dundalk did have came at vital times; David McMillan in regular time and Ciaran Kilduff in extra-time. A second away goal would have put the Irish side through.

For all of their control, Rosenborg didn't exactly have a litany of missed chances to reflect upon. In fact, they were clinical when it mattered, going in level at the break in both legs when the tale of the first halves didn't appear to be headed that way.

At this level, the margins are fine.

Rosenborg said on Tuesday they would take charge of the game in the opening 20 minutes as a contrast from the first leg.

The opposite proved to be case as they were one down and grateful to their goalkeeper that the damage wasn't greater. Dundalk won five corners in this period and made one pay when a sweet Michael Duffy delivery was dispatched by the head of Brian Gartland. They might have scored another when the unmarked McMillan was denied by Hansen.

Boos and jeers started at the half hour mark with a subdued performance from the natives alarming home fans. Dundalk were sharper in most departments.

Problems

The parallels from the Oriel Park showdown would continue, however, and that was bad news for the away side. Rosenborg noticeably improved as the interval approached with signs that their midfield runners from deep were starting to pose problems and that showed in their equaliser.

Nicklas Bendtner's flick found the clever captain Mike Jensen who made an incisive run and then executed a perfectly weighted pass for first leg sub Yann-Erik De Lanlay who outpaced Sean Gannon and poked the ball past Gary Rogers.

The Dundalk keeper could arguably have done better in advancing from his line but he was busy immediately to make a smart stop from Milan Jevtovic with the whistle coming as respite for the men in black.

With Dundalk struggling in the centre, Kenny introduced Stephen O'Donnell for the booked Michael Duffy and sent Robbie Benson out wide. O'Donnell sought to get on the ball and stem the tide and he was effective although one foul led to a free that was fluffed by Tore Reginiussen with Dundalk switching off. That was a major escape.

And, in truth, it was the only one between then and full-time with Dundalk shoring things up - centre halves Vemmelund and Gartland were excellent - and even creating a chance of their own when McEleney was fouled and a free kick routine led to a Benson shot forcing a smart stop from Hansen.

The real blow for Dundalk was the loss of McEleney due to the effects of the original foul and Jamie McGrath was introduced in his place, an enforced change that Kenny could have done without making with a view to the extra thirty minutes that were imminent at that juncture.

He made his final switch early in extra-time with McMillan replaced by Kilduff. Yet it was a Rosenborg replacement that would make the defining impact. Matthias Vilhjalmsson rose above Gartland to head a cross from Vegar Hedenstad beyond Rogers.

Dundalk were battered and bruised but still one goal away from qualification. The big chance fell to Kilduff before the end of the first period and, unmarked, he was slightly off balance from eight yards with an attempt that struck the bar with the ref pointing for a corner. Try as they might, Dundalk wouldn't get any closer.

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