Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth has challenged his side to get to Qarabag’s levels after they brushed the Irish champions aside at the Dalga Arena last night to end their Champions League dreams.
Baku is known as the City of Winds and the Louth men were simply blown aside in the Azeri capital with Gurban Gurbanov’s side toying with their visitors right from the off.
Dundalk had come into the game hopeful of a shock having held Qarabag to a 1-1 first-leg draw last week but two Jaime Romero strikes either side of a killer second from Ailton on 76 minutes means it’s a Europa League trip to face Slovan Bratislava for the Louth men next week.
Having weathered an early storm, Dundalk were the architects of their own downfall in the end as a poor clearance from Michael Duffy was punished to kill off any hopes of a sucker punch from the visitors.
Perth had no complaints with the outcome afterwards.
“I said it was one of the best sides we had ever faced and I think we seen that,” he said.
“I was concerned after the first game because I felt we left something behind us in the first game, something to hang onto, but it was really interesting. We just had a discussion there and it’s half-time in our European adventure. That’s where we want to get to.
“We’re obviously off that and Irish clubs are generally off that but we believe we can go to the next stage.
“We’re disappointed obviously but I think we’ve gone up more than one level there. I think we’ve gone up two levels. That’s a decent side but we’ll take it on the chin and the bit of flak that comes with it.
“We stayed in the game for as long as we could. We needed one big goal and it didn’t come and that has ultimately cost us. When we opened up we had nothing to lose but when we did they punished us.”
The home side started like a whirlwind with first leg goalscorer Mahir Emreli almost breaking the deadlock after just 21 seconds but his effort was pushed around the post by Gary Rogers.
The pressure continued with Rahil Mammadov flashing a header over from the resulting corner.
There was brief respite for Dundalk when they got three corners in succession, the third of which saw Sean Hoare get a free header that was unfortunately straight at Vagner on six minutes. That and a long-range effort from Patrick McEleney that sailed well over was as good as it got from an attacking sense for Dundalk in the half.
After Michel headed off the bar from Ozobic’s corner on seven minutes, the breakthrough finally arrived five minutes later.
A poor kick-out from Vagner was taken down by Ailton all too easily on half way with his pass picking out Filip Ozobic.
The Croat then released Abdellah Zoubir with a neat back heel. He switched play to the right to Romero who skipped inside Dane Massey’s challenge onto his left foot before drilling low to the bottom right hand corner.
Just as in the first leg Qarabag threatened to kill the game off by turning the screw after that but a shot into the side-netting by Zoubir and an effort pulled wide from Ozobic meant that the Lilywhites had weathered much of the storm to trail by just a goal at the break.
The pressure continued into the second half with an early Dani Quintana shot deflecting just wide before the visitors had a major let-off on 54 minutes when Rogers saved from Emreli before Daniel Cleary somehow got back to deny Zoubir scoring from the follow up.
Dundalk had a rare opportunity to score an equaliser on 67 minutes.
Sean Gannon found space down the right with Patrick Hoban flicking his cross goalwards only for Vagner to get across to save.
Just as they started to push up the pitch, the killer second goal arrived on 76 minutes. Duffy’s clearance was poor allowing Maksim Medvedev the time and space to cross for the unmarked Ailton to steer a header home.
The nail was then firmly put in Dundalk’s Champions League coffin three minutes from the end when Zoubir pulled back for Romero to fire in his second.
QARABAG: Vagner; Medvedev (Huseynov 82), Mammadov, Sadygov, Ailton; Almeida, Michel (Slavchev 73); Romero, Ozobic (Quintana 25), Zoubir. Emreli. Subs not used: Magomedaliyev, Garayev, Abdullayev, Gueye.
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Hoare (Murray 56), McGrath, McEleney (Mountney 65), Duffy (D Kelly 79); Hoban. Subs not used: McCarey, Gartland, Jarvis, G Kelly.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).