Dundalk’s Europa League qualification hopes dashed after loss to Rapid Wien

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The Lilywhites have lost all of their Europa League group stage games so far.

Dundalk hosted Austrian side Rapid Wien tonight at the unfamiliar venue of the Aviva Stadium as they attempted to keep their Europa League hopes alive. Unfortunately, though, they suffered a 3-1 defeat meaning they won’t compete in the knockout stages.

Despite their disappointing group stage form, Dundalk can be proud of how they performed throughout the entirety of the campaign. The Louth side were never fancied, even in the qualifying rounds.

Their season leading up to qualification was nothing short of abysmal – by their standards. A culmination of poor domestic form and elimination from Champions League qualifying led to the sacking of Vinny Perth. Filippo Giovagnoli was chosen as his successor. Giovagnoli’s appointment raised plenty of eyebrows, mainly owing to his lack of appropriate experience.

So far, though, he has proved many of his doubters wrong. Under his guidance, the club qualified for the Europa League group stage for the first time since 2016. They also finished 3rd in the league and have progressed to the FAI Cup semi-finals.

Giovagnoli accomplished all this despite not holding a UEFA Pro License. His lack of qualifications meant he was forced to watch from the stands tonight. UEFA forbade the manager from entering the technical area, despite having done so in previous games. Instead, coach Shane Keegan took charge. The former Wexford Youths and Galway United manager is the only member of the Dundalk backroom staff with the necessary qualifications.

FIRST HALF

The match started at a high pace with both teams getting forward at will. It was Rapid Wien who took the lead in the 10th minute though after a misplaced pass from Seán Hoare. Christoph Knasmüllner intercepted the ball before unleashing a long-range drive into the top corner. A brilliant goal from the Austrian midfielder.

Dundalk very nearly caused further problems for themselves just minutes later with another misplaced pass. This time it was Chris Shields’ careless back-pass which was intercepted by Taxiarchis Fuentas. He then tested Gary Rogers in the Dundalk goal but the Meath native produced a good save this time around. Fuentas was causing problems in the early stages having missed the previous meeting between the two sides due to injury.

Dundalk’s first shot on goal came shortly after. Michael Duffy got a shot off from outside the box after good, progressive play from Dundalk. His shot was right under the throat of the keeper, however, and easily saved.

Rogers was called into action again in the 28th minute after a deflected free kick from Ercan Kara was heading into the net. Rogers got a good hand to the ball, though, which deflected out for a corner.

Rapid Wien scored their second of the night in the 36th minute after another brilliant goal. This time it was a brilliant team move as they easily retained possession before Ercan Kara latched onto a cross and finished with his head.

Stefan Čolović had the chance to reduce the deficit minutes after following a period of sustained pressure. Seán Hoare produced a cross which met the Serbian but he glanced his header wide.

Dundalk controlled much of the half thereafter, but couldn’t turn their dominant into any meaningful chances. Rapid Wien deservedly led 2-0 at the break.

SECOND HALF

The Dundalk manager, clearly not happy with his side’s first half performance, brought on 3 subs after the interval. Nathan Oduwa, Patrick McEleney and Daniel Kelly all came on in an attempt to rescue the game.

It didn’t take long for the substitutes to make an impact as Daniel Kelly won a penalty after some good work in the 48th minute. Nathan Oduwa stepped up to take the penalty but he shot wide after a casual run up. The Tottenham academy graduate won’t want to see any replays of the attempt.

Rapid Wien got their third of the night in the 57th minute. It was Ercan Kana with another spectacular goal. The striker made space for himself at the edge of the box before placing an accurate shot into the top corner.

Daniel Kelly had a chance to score himself at the edge of the box moments after. He was set up by Greg Slogett, his resulting shot went over the bar, however.

Nathan Oduwa made amends for his poor penalty as he was fouled inside the Rapid Wien box in the 61st minute. Chris Shields took the resulting penalty and made no mistake as he placed his shot into the left corner.

Rapid Wien had a handful of chances within the Dundalk box in the 76th minute but failed to convert. Sean Gannon blocked the first shot before Gary Rogers got a good hand on the rebound to keep the score at 3-1.

Nathan Oduwa had a fantastic chance in injury time to get one back for Dundalk. Michael Duffy went on a great run before crossing low into the feet of Oduwa but he then blasted over the bar.

The score finished 3-1 to Rapid Wien with Dundalk eliminated from the knockout stages. Dundalk travel to Norway next week as they take on Molde in their penultimate Europa League fixture.

Dundalk starting XI: Gary Rogers, Seán Hoare (Daniel Kelly 45′), Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary, Sean Gannon, Chris Shields, Greg Sloggett (Sean Murray 71′), Cameron Dummigan (Darragh Leahy 80′), Stefan Čolović (Patrick McEleney 45′), David McMillan (Nathan Oduwa 45′), Michael Duffy.
Rapid Wien starting XI: Paul Gartler, Filip Stojković, Maximilian Hofmann, Mateo Barać, Maximilian Ullmann, Christoph Knasmüllner (Yusuf Demir 80′), Srđan Grahovac, Thorsten Schick, Taxiarchis Fountas (Lion Schuster 66′), Melih Ibrahimoglu (Kelvin Arase 54′), Ercan Kara (Koya Kitagawa 66′).

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