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Thursday 16 August 2018

Kenny fumes at 'basic errors' which cost his side dearly in Europa League defeat

AEK Larnaca 4 Dundalk 0 (Larnaca win 4-0 on aggregate)

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny leaves the pitch following their Europa League defeat in Cyprus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny leaves the pitch following their Europa League defeat in Cyprus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny said that his Dundalk players were guilty of unacceptable errors in a Europa League horror show in Cyprus.

The League of Ireland leaders were thrashed by AEK Larnaca after a terrible first half display ended their hopes of progression to the third qualifying round.

Confidence was high in the Dundalk camp after last week's scoreless draw but it was game over by half-time after the concession of three goals in temperatures of 32 degrees.

But Kenny refused to blame the conditions and said that basic errors lay at the root of his team's demise.

"We committed basic errors and we got punished," he said. "It was a very disappointing night.

"The players understand it's not acceptable...we're capable of a lot better than that. To concede the goals we did gave us no chance.

Exposed

Dundalk were consistently exposed down the right flank where Sean Hoare toiled at full back, although he wasn't exactly helped by the players around him.

Macedonian international Ivan Trickovski slipped into the space behind the defender to open the scoring in the 13th minute with Larnaca capitalising after a Dundalk counter attack had broken down.

Spanish winger Tete was the real thorn in Hoare's side, causing problems from his berth on the left wing and Larnaca consistently tried to angle the ball in his direction.

The second goal came from that route with a long ball from Truyols finding Tete who controlled to chip over Gary Rogers with Hoare in no-man's land.

Ivan Trickovski scores Larnaca’s third goal past Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ivan Trickovski scores Larnaca’s third goal past Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"Sean completely switched off," said Kenny, "I can't explain it really."

Tete delivered the assist for the third goal, with his cross converted at the second attempt by Trickovski after Rogers blocked his initial header.

Dundalk had a valid shout for a penalty waved away before that strike when Jamie McGrath went down in the box, with Larnaca temporarily switching off. But the visitors' execution of dead balls and basic passes was sluggish.

Kenny took action at the break, introducing Patrick McEleney and Sean Gannon in a double substitution and the performance level improved.

Hoare was moved to centre half in place of Daniel Cleary, with Gannon shoring things up at right full and McEleney helping Dundalk hold onto the ball in midfield. Kenny may well rue not starting with the side that kicked off the second half.

Dundalk finally began to threaten consistently although Larnaca's defending was astute and they restricted their guests to half chances.

Dundalk’s Chris Shields is upended by Larnaca’s Hector Hevel. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dundalk’s Chris Shields is upended by Larnaca’s Hector Hevel. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

McEleney did help them to retain possession better, but several moves broke down before a shot was taken.

By contrast, Larnaca were clinical and put an even more emphatic look on the scoreline at the death when sub Joan Tomas struck with his first touch.

Dundalk's priority this year was retaining their league title, and Kenny proved that point by deciding against rotating his squad for Sunday's league win over Bohemians.

A return to the Champions League offers a better chance of progress through Europe, but Kenny was still keen to advance past this stage and his frustration was evident after a long debrief with his squad in the dressing room ahead of the trip to the airport for a miserable flight home.

"We can't blame the heat," said Kenny, "They stopped us playing out too easily. We needed to be braver. We need to have better movement and our general passing wasn't at the level that it needs to be. We made basic errors, things like not retaining possession from throw-ins.

"Sometimes you just need to hang in there when a team gets the run on you like that and to see a period out. It's a different game in the second half and they don't look as good as they did.

"It was too comfortable for them before that. You can't park this really. It has to hurt. That was a harsh lesson.

"From our point of view we've just got to dust ourselves down now. We've got an awful lot left to play for this season and we've got to try and achieve that."

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