BATE's experience the difference as Dundalk bow out of Europe

Belarus side let their European experience show at Oriel Park

Dundalk 0 BATE Borisov 0 (BATE progress 2-1 on aggregate)

There was evidence in the performance over the two legs that Stephen Kenny’s “project” at Oriel Park is continuing to progress but for the moment, it seems, the likes of BATE remain just a bit beyond them.

The hosts gave it their all in front a passionate home crowd but it wasn’t enough. The hint of trouble at the end suggested some of the players, like the supporters, reckoned they had cause to feel hard done by but in reality they were slightly second best here.

Against a side that showed real quality at times there was no shame in that and the locals might acknowledge in the cold light of day that their greatest misfortune was being drawn against a side with such an impressive track record in the first place.


Stephen O’Donnell, their skipper, and again one their strongest performers, admitted as much afterwards. “I’m disappointed more than frustrated,” he said. “I think we’d have to admit that they were the better side here tonight but away we probably dominated for long spells but just didn’t make it count.

“The priority now for us has to be to retain the league and then come back fitter and stronger for Europe again next year.”

Kenny had said beforehand that Dundalk would take the game to their opponents and the players were as good as his word, showing obvious intent from the outset. He had also said, however, that their ambition was to outplay BATE and that, in truth, they never managed to at all with the Belarusians generally looking by far the more likely to score over the course of the 90 minutes. They were also well capable of weathering whatever their hosts managed to throw at them as they chased the goal they needed through the closing stages.

The Greek referee didn't win too many friends with a couple of the calls he made, but given that Brian Gartland had benefited from perhaps his worst decision of the night in the first half when his blatant body check on Filip Mladenovic went entirely unpunished, it was hard to see how they could complain too much.

Gartland, in fact, had got going early. Barely a minute in his clattering challenge on Vitali Rodionov – a touch of afters from last week it seemed – handed BATE a free from which the Belarusian striker eventually volleyed narrowly over, but it was from play that the visitors really impressed over the course of the game with Serb left back Mladenovic the most persistent of their many threats.

The locals were constantly looking for ways to get on the front foot but they had to work desperately hard at times just to stay in it and their tendency to fall back very deep at the first sign of real danger was repeatedly exploited by their opponents early on with Mladenovic and, more than once, Ihar Stasevic, ignoring their heavily outnumbered frontmen in favour of late arriving midfielders Illya Aleksiyevich or Mikhail Gordejchuk, a tactic that repeatedly left Dundalk scrambling to charge down chances over the course of the first half.

There were glimpses of Dundalk's own game with a particularly impressive spell of possession football at one point in the first ending with a perfect pass for David McMillan, who came within a whisker of sending Richie Towell free. The striker had his side's best chance when Ronan Finn won the ball after a free out and he then did well to power forward, turn inside his man and force a decent stop from goalkeeper Sergei Chernik.

Gary Rogers had a couple to make too and he did well over the course of the night but he still had to be rescued at one point by Sean Gannon after Nemanja Milunovic's downward header from beyond the far post had wrong-footed the goalkeeper while he was little more than a by-stander when Stasevic pummelled the bar with a shot from an angle 15 yards out.

Dundalk, then, were a little fortunate to still be level at the break but it was thrilling stuff and as long as the single goal would do them, rich with exciting potential.

The growing sense of urgency was obvious in the Dundalk performance as the night wore on and Towell was as influential as ever as he sought to engineer things from the centre of the field. Late on, they exerted a little more pressure but the closest they came to getting the goal they needed was when Chernik funbled a straightforward free.

At the other end, BATE missed enough chances for the crowd to keep believing it might eventually turn out to be the home side’s night but it didn’t happen. The task now, as O’Donnell says, is to ensure the experience counts for something next year by successfully defending their league title. The fact that it is Cork City who come to Oriel on Sunday should at least help to concentrate minds.

DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Towell, O'Donnell; Meenan (Shields, 56 mins), Finn (Mountney, 77 mins), Horgan (Byrne, 82 mins); McMillan.

BATE BORISOV: Chernik; Zhavnerchik, Dubra, Milunovic, Mladenovi?; Stasevich, Baga, Aleksiyevich (Nikolic, 68 mins), Gordeichuk (Ryas, 85 mins); Karnitski (Signevich, 90 mins); Rodionov.

Referee: S Tritsonis (Greece).

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times