Levadia Tallinn 1 Dundalk 2 (Dundalk win 4-3 on aggregate)
Vinny Perth believes Dundalk's victory over Levadia Tallinn in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night can be a "stepping stone towards getting this club back to where it belongs."
The Co Louth side advanced to a third qualifying round tie against Dutch side Vitesse next week courtesy of a dramatic 92nd minute winner from Will Patching at the A Le Coq Arena.
It was the only time Dundalk led over the two legs having trailed twice in the 2-2 first leg draw at Tallaght Stadium. Patching's former Man City team-mate Ernest Agyiri then gave the Estonians a 17th minute lead before David McMillan equalised on the stroke of half-time.
Despite leaving it late to advance, Perth feels the better side won in the end.
“We showed real bravery and I think we were the better side over the two legs,” he said.
“This club has stamped its name around Europe for many years, particularly in the last eight, and tonight is another big statement that Dundalk aren’t going away any time soon.
“Patching’s finish was outstanding and I’m just really chuffed for the players. They’ve got some criticism and been ridiculed but we’ve a good group of people who are fighting for each other and I think tonight is just another stepping stone towards getting this club back to where it belongs,” said Perth.
The visitors were on top right from the off but a long range strike from Sam Stanton which sailed over on four minutes was all they had to show for their efforts before Levadia took the lead with their first shot in the 17th minute.
Stanton was at fault on this occasion as he gifted possession away cheaply to Frank Livvak with Zakaria Beglarishvili setting Agyiri down the left. The Ghanaian winger then rippled the net with an early shot from the corner of the penalty area which flashed through the arms of Alessio Abibi.
Dundalk were unlucky not to equalise in the 29th minute when Stanton saw an effort spin off the crossbar but the leveller would arrive a minute before the break.
Levadia goalkeeper Karl Andre Vallner failed to deal with Darragh Leahy's cross from the left with Raivis Jurkovskis keeping it alive by heading to Greg Sloggett inside the box. The former UCD player then crossed to McMillan, who held off Milan Mitrovic before firing to the bottom left hand corner to make it 1-1.
After Stanton flashed another effort across goal shortly after the restart, Vallner then had a major let-off on 62 minutes when he spilled Sonni Nattestad’s header from Patching’s corner only to juggle the ball away before Leahy could pounce on the rebound.
When McEleney curled an effort just wide with a quarter of an hour to go the game looked destined for extra-time but Dundalk had other ideas and in the second minute of additional time McEleney picked out the run of Patching who controlled superbly before rifling past Vallner to earn his side a €850,000 pay day and a trip to the Netherlands next week.
Levadia Tallinn: Vallner; Podholjuzin, Uggè, Mitrovic, Ilic (Elhi 70); Lepistu; Liivak, Putincanin, Vaštšuk (Roosnupp 34), Agyiri (Õigus 71); Beglarishvili (Kirss 65).
Dundalk: Abibi; Jurkovskis; Boyle, Nattestad, Leahy; Stanton (Zahibo 91), Sloggett; Kelly (Murray 70), Patching, McEleney; McMillan (Hoban 62).
Referee: Thorvaldur Árnason (Iceland).