Europa League: Ryan Swan’s strike gives UCD something to hold on to
F91 Dudelange dominate first half but Students dig in for Europa League qualifier first leg win
Ryan Swan celebrates opening the scoring for UCD in their Europa League first qualifying round first leg against F91 Dudelange at UCD Bowl. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
This may not quite be remembered in 30 odd years the way holding Everton in 1984 was last night, but for UCD it was another good result in Europe, with Ryan Swan’s goal earning them an unlikely win and giving them something no other Irish side managed to secure, a lead to defend in the second leg.
Dudelange comfortably outplayed their hosts through the first half, with the 8-0 corner count a reflection of their dominance. Having taken the lead just before the break, however, Collie O’Neill’s side went on to make more even contest of it. The visitors will wonder quite how it was they didn’t score, with substitutes David Turpel and Alexandre Lauriente passing up clearcut chances. The students might just as easily have had a second after the break, though, and they’ll travel now in real hope.
They started brightly, competing fiercely and doing well in possession to stay one step ahead of opponents who made it clear they had come to force the pace and keep their hosts under pressure.
It didn’t take long for the visitors’ approach to start paying dividends, though. UCD soon started to struggle to hold onto the ball, much less win it. As the half wore on they found themselves defending ever closer to their own goal with Dudelange engineering a succession of shooting opportunities, quite a few coming in the immediate aftermath of those corners.
There was the occasional hint of overconfidence about the visitors, with Kevin Nakache in central midfield and Gregory Adler, just off the front man, over-egging things at times. But between them they did enough to take the lead during the opening half, with Niall Corbet twice having to do very well to keep his side level, while Sanel Ibrahimovic clattered the post from distance.
UCD, meanwhile, posed almost no threat before the goal. Jamie Doyle provided a hint of the difficulties his height might cause around the area when he turned a long throw in from the right goalwards but the header lacked power and Jonathan Joubert gathered comfortably.
Up front Ryan Swan had what seemed a fairly thankless task, struggling to hold on to the ball without the support he needed, but when his chance came, almost on the stroke of half-time, he was ready. The 19-year-old son of former Bohemians star Derek, he coolly slipped the ball past the oncoming Joubert after Robbie Benson had been quick to capitalise on a Joel Pedro error.
Dudelange should have equalised from the restart but Benzouien failed to turn the ball home from a couple of yards, but they never dominated in the same way, conscious now that conceding a second would leave them in real trouble next week.
Their hosts duly started to get a sense that there might be a second goal. Chris Mulhall forced a cracking save from Joubert and then set up Dylan Watts for a looping shot that rattled the crossbar.
They might have strengthened their position from a corner of their own late on – the second half tally was 5-4 – but they were almost caught on the break and will have been relieved in the end to have held onto to their slender lead.
“They’re like kids on Christmas morning time,” said manager O’Neill of the players in dressing-room afterwards.
“I’m delighted for them. They’ve worked so hard over the last few weeks. We had a big poster of tweets on the wall from when it was announced that we had qualified. Everyone was calling us a joke team, that we were an embarrassment to be in the Europa League. But here we are, the only club to win this week in the Europa league. We thrived on it. Basically it was us against everyone else.”
UCD: Corbet; Langtry, Leahy, Boyle, McLaughlin; Mulhall, O’Neill, Watts (Watson, 92 mins), Doyle; Benson; Swan.
F91 Dudelange: Joubert; Clayton, Schnell, Prempeh, Ney; Benzouien, Nakache, Pedro, Da Mota (Lauriente, 74 mins); Adler (Turpel, 58 mins); Ibrahimovic (Pinto, 82 mins).
Referee: P Reinert (Faroe Islands)