Dundalk fall just short of Champions League against 10-man Legia

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Dundalk’s dreams of becoming the first Irish club
to qualify for the Champions League group stage
ended following a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Legia
Warsaw.

A stunning strike from Robbie Benson gave the
Lilywhites hope as they looked to overturn a two-
goal first-leg deficit in the Polish capital but an
injury-time equaliser from Michal Kucharczyk put
the result of the play-off beyond doubt.
Benson smashed a dipping volley into the top-
right corner from just inside the 18-yard box in the
19th minute after striker David McMillan had
headed Sean Gannon’s cross from the right back
across goal.

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The well-worked early goal was just what Stephen
Kenny’s side needed but, despite the 67th-minute
sending-off of Adam Hlousek, they were unable to
find a crucial second which would have forced
extra-time before Kucharczyk broke to settle
matters.
In an impressive opening period for the Irish
champions, midfielder Daryl Horgan saw his well-
struck 25-yard free-kick fly straight at Legia
goalkeeper Arkadiusz Malarz.
Midfielder Benson then quietened the partisan
home crowd inside the Polish Army Stadium when
he met McMillan’s centre in impressive fashion.

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The home side responded though and would have
been on level terms on the night minutes later had
it not been for a fine save from Dundalk keeper
Gary Rogers. Czech Republic international Hlousek
connected superbly with a left-footed shot from
range but, with the ball heading for the top-right
corner, Rogers rose to tip it past the post for a
corner.
French midfielder Thibault Moulin was the next to
threaten an equaliser, although his effort from
distance proved to be a more straightforward stop
for Rogers.
Dundalk looked to be facing a mammoth task
following last week’s 2-0 defeat in Dublin but they
almost levelled the contest with 63 minutes played.
Horgan surged away down the right and his
delivery was nodded down by McMillan only for
Benson to direct his overhead attempt over the
crossbar.

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The Lilywhites’ quest for a lucrative and historic
Champions League spot appeared to have been
made slightly easier when Hlousek pulled down
Ronan Finn and was shown his second yellow card
in the space of 11 minutes to leave the home side
a man light for the final 23 minutes.
Despite the numerical advantage, Dundalk
appeared to tire and they looked susceptible to
counter attacks.
Substitute Guilherme was the first to threaten when
his stinging volley was palmed away by Rogers
before Legia wrapped things up in the second of
four minutes added on.
Midfielder Kucharczyk raced forward and then
retained his composure to cut in from the left and
emphatically finish into the right side of the net to
spark wild celebrations from the home crowd and
condemn the visitors to a place in the Europa
League.

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