Perth strikes an upbeat note despite heavy loss for Dundalk
Manager sees European adventure at halfway stage with Europa League to come
Qarabag’s Ailton Ferreira Silva scores their second goal during the Champions League second qualifying round, second leg against Dundalk at the Dalga Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Qarabag 3 Dundalk 0 (Qarabag win 4-1 on agg)
Baku is known as the City of Winds and Dundalk were simply blown away in the Azeri capital on Wednesday night as Qarabag ended their Champions League dreams.
The Louth men had come into the game hopeful of a shock having held Qarabag to a 1-1 first-leg draw last week but two Jaime Romero strikes either side of a killer second from Ailton on 76 minutes means it’s a Europa League trip to face Slovan Bratislava next week.
Having weathered an early storm, Dundalk were the victims of their own downfall in the end as a poor clearance from Michael Duffy was punished to kill off any hopes of a sucker punch from the visitors.
Head coach Vinny Perth had no complaints with the outcome afterwards.
“I said it was one of the best sides we had ever faced and I think we seen that,” he said.
“We just had a discussion there and it’s half-time in our European adventure. That’s where we want to get to.
“We’re obviously off that but we believe we can go to the next stage.
“We’re disappointed obviously but I think we’ve gone up more than one level there. I think we’ve gone up two levels.
“We stayed in the game for as long as we could. When we opened up we had nothing to lose but when we did they punished us.”
The home side started like a whirlwind with first leg goalscorer Mahir Emreli almost breaking the deadlock after just 21 seconds but his effort was pushed around the post by Gary Rogers before Rahil Mammadov flashed a header over from the resulting corner.
A Seán Hoare header from a corner moments later that was straight at Vagner was as good as it got for the visitors who were fortunate not to concede from a corner themselves on seven minutes when Michel headed against the bar.
The breakthrough then arrived on 12 minutes when Filip Ozobic released Abdellah Zoubir with a neat back heel. He switched play to the right to Romero who skipped inside Dane Massey’s challenge onto his left foot before drilling low to the bottom right hand corner.
Just as in the first leg Qarabag threatened to kill the game off by turning the screw after that but a shot into the side-netting by Zoubir and an effort pulled wide from Ozobic meant that the Lilywhites weathered much of the storm to trail by just a goal at the break.
The pressure continued into the second half with a major let-off for the visitors on 54 minutes when Rogers saved from Emreli before Daniel Cleary somehow got back to deny Zoubir scoring from the follow up.
Dundalk had a rare opportunity to score an equaliser on 67 minutes. Seán Gannon found space down the right with Patrick Hoban flicking his cross goalwards only for Vagner to get across to save.
Just as they started to push up the pitch, the killer second goal arrived on 76 minutes. Duffy’s clearance was poor allowing Maksim Medvedev the time and space to cross for the unmarked Ailton to steer a header home.
The nail was then firmly put in Dundalk’s Champions League coffin on 87 minutes when Zoubir pulled back for Romero to fire in his second.
QARABAG: Vagner; Medvedev (Huseynov, 82 mins), Mammadov, Sadygov, Ailton; Almeida, Michel (Slavchev, 73 mins); Romero, Ozobic (Quintana, 25 mins), Zoubir. Emreli. Subs not used: Magomedaliyev, Garayev, Abdullayev, Gueye.
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Hoare (Murray 56), McGrath, McEleney (Mountney, 65 mins), Duffy (D Kelly, 79 mins); Hoban. Subs not used: McCarey, Gartland, Jarvis, G Kelly.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).