Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Dundalk seems facile on paper, however It was anything but for the Gunners.
For long periods of the game, Arsenal struggled to break down a resolute Dundalk side. Dundalk ended the game with zero fouls which emphasised their disciplined performance.
Arsenal had the lions share of possession as expected, but struggled to create a clear cut chance. It was the Lilywhites who had the first meaningful attack of the game.
Patrick McEleney’s 25 yard effort was smartly saved by Rúnarsson. Dundalk didn’t threaten at all after that.
The Gunners opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, courtesy of a Gary Rogers error from a corner allowing Eddie Nketiah to bundle home from close range.
Joe Willock doubled the lead two minutes later after some sloppy defending from the Irish side. Nicolas Pepe produced a sublime strike to put the game beyond doubt at 3-0, seconds after the 2nd half kicked off.
Dundalk to their credit, didn’t wilt and limited Arsenal to very little again. Their deep line of defence probably didn’t do them any favours fitness wise as they struggled to counter at pace when the opportunity arose.
Michael Duffy was frustrated and Hoban cut an isolated figure up front. A valiant effort from the Lilywhites in the end.
Next up on Dundalk’s European adventure is a basement battle in Vienna against Rapid Wien. The 32 times Austrian Champions are unfortunate to be pointless after running Arsenal and Molde close.
Dundalk aren’t guaranteed an opportunity of more glamour ties in Europe yet. They have to beat Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park on Sunday to seal a top 3 finish.
They drew 1-1 in Inchicore against St. Pats last weekend to keep Pats and Waterford United in the hunt for 3rd place.
If Dundalk slip up, it will leave the door open for Waterford and potentially Pats to pounce and steal the final European spot.
Dundalk do have the safety net of winning the FAI Cup to qualify for Europe next season. Their path isn’t straightforward.
They have an away quarter final tie against League runners up Bohemians to negotiate. Sligo Rovers and double chasing Shamrock Rovers are also in quarter final action in two weeks.
Filippo Giovagnoli’s men still have plenty to look forward to in this European campaign. Arsenal and Rapid Wien are due to come to town, and an away trip to Molde.
After encouraging performances at home to Molde and at the Emirates last week, Dundalk will be hopeful of gaining a couple of points or maybe a win, like they did in 2016.
The money they collect from this Europa League campaign will go a long way to reinvesting in the facilities and squad after what has been a turbulent season.
Image Credit: Dundalk FC