quinta-feira, 20 de outubro de 2016
Dundalk 1-2 Zenit: Mak & Giuliano lead comeback to deny Lilywhites
Stephen Kenny's side produced an excellent defensive performance to deny Zenit in the first-half, but two quick goals cancelled out Robbie Benson's second-half opener
Dundalk's unbeaten start to the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League group stage is over, after the Lilywhites surrendered a second-half lead to Zenit at Tallaght Stadium.
Robbie Benson's long-range opener was cancelled out by two goals in six minutes from Slovakian international Robert Mak and Giuliano, with Gabriel Sava's penalty save from Mauricio denying the Russians a late third.
With nine goals and a maximum six points from their first two games, Zenit were heavy favourites, with the five-time Russian champions boasting a starting XI brimming with internationals.
However, it was Dundalk who started strongest and nearly took the lead when Ronan Finn went close after a great first-time ball from David McMillan. In a move that was started by Dundalk right-back Sean Gannon, the Lilywhites full-back played a sharp ball into the feet of the striker, who duly deftly dinked the ball over the Zenit defence.
The Dundalk playmaker burned Zenit centre-back Nicolas Lombaerts down the right wing, and after taking a brief touch to steady himself, the former Hoops midfielder fired his right-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Oleg Shatov spurned an excellent chance to break the deadlock after a timely one-two with Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba. Dundalk left-back Dane Massey was caught badly out of position after failing to link up with Daryl Horgan while in possession, and it nearly proved to be crucial for the hosts as Shatov was just inches away from sneaking the ball inside the far-post when his right-footed shot drifted out for a goal kick.
Dundalk made the visitors pay less than two minutes later when Benson’s 25-yard effort deceived Zenit goalkeeper Lodygin who was sent the wrong way by the midfielder's swerving left-footed shot.
Benson’s goal looked like it was going to set up the biggest win in Dundalk history until Mak equalised in the 71st minute after linking up brilliantly with Zenit left-back Domenico Criscito.
Positioned just inside the Dundalk box, the Italian international found Mak with a timely pass that allowed the Russian winger to take a brief touch before tucking the ball neatly inside the far-post to equalise.
Massey came agonisingly close to giving Dundalk the lead again after a sublime ball into the box from Horgan, but the left-back’s header cannoned off the post.
It was to be Dundalk’s last legitimate chance on goal as Brazilian international Giuliano sealed the game off in the 77th minute after combining brilliantly with Belgium international Axel Witsel.
Zenit substitute Mauricio had a chance to kill of the game when he was brought down in the box by Dundalk defender Brian Gartland but the Brazilian could not convert his own penalty after Sava guessed the right way.
The win for Zenit gives the five-time Russian champions a maximum nine points from three games while Dundalk remain in second on four points after Maccabi Tel-Aviv defeated AZ Alkmaar in Amsterdam.