BATE Borisov 1 Dundalk 0: Substitute Mikhail Gordeichuk’s 70th minute strike for BATE Borisov in the Borisov Arena last night finally broke Dundalk’s resistance to leave the League of Ireland champions with it all to do if they are to realise their Champions League dream.
A backs to the wall performance from Stephen Kenny’s side looked as though it would earn them a draw to take back to Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday.
However, a mistake by Sean Gannon 20 minutes from the end was punished to the extreme, meaning the Louth men face an uphill task if they are to become the first Irish club to reach the playoffs of Europe’s premier club competition.
There appeared little danger when the full back controlled a loose pass about 30 yards from his goal under no pressure. However, in his attempt to pick out a team-mate he played a pass straight to former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alexander Hleb, who immediately released fellow substitute Gordeichuk on the overlap.
The 28-year-old, who scored against the Republic of Ireland in their 2-1 defeat to Belarus at Turner’s Cross in May, then punished the error by drilling low past Gary Rogers at his near post for what would prove the game’s only goal.
It was a hammer blow for Dundalk, who had been weathering the storm up until then.
While BATE dominated both the possession and the chances, there were few that overly worried Rogers.
Indeed, the home side’s best chance prior to that came on 18 minutes when Paddy Barrett rattled his own crossbar under pressure from Vitali Rodionov following a dangerous cross from the right by Maksim Zhavernchik.
The BATE full back was then fortunate not to receive a red card on 29 minutes when he launched into an aerial challenge with Stephen O’Donnell with his elbow and caught the Dundalk skipper. Ukrainian official Yevhan Aranovskiy adjudged it to only warrant a yellow.
The visitors were very much on the backfoot but almost took the lead completely against the run of play in the 36th minute when a good break up the left saw Daryl Horgan cut back for Robbie Benson, whose shot was rather unconvincingly turned around the post by goalkeeper Sergey Veremko.
The Dundalk goal continued to live a charmed life and three minutes before the break a crucial last gasp tackle by Dane Massey was required to deny Aleksei Rios what looked like being a tap-in.
Despite the introduction of Chris Shields and John Mountney at the break to try and steady things in place of Patrick McEleney and Benson, the home side continued to pour forward at will.
However, most of what they threw at their opponents was either straight down the throat of Rogers or wildly off target.
Indeed, it looked like an error would be Dundalk’s undoing on 59 minutes when Andy Boyle let a ball bounce in the box that was seized upon by Rodionov before Rogers could get there. Fortunately for the Lilywhites a free out was awarded.
When centre half Kaspars Dubra then lashed wildly wide it looked as though Dundalk were on course to hold out for a hugely credible draw.
However, the introduction of Gordeichuk changed the game and he showed his threat right from the off with a shot that deflected wide off Massey.
The error 20 minutes from time will be one that Dundalk will be kicking themselves over for some time but the visitors were fortunate not to concede a second in the closing stages with Rogers having to turn a Igor Stasevich shot around the post six minutes from the end after Aleksandr Karnitski’s cross had found its way right across the box.
There would be another let-off a minute later when a Gordeichuk cross was met by the head of Dubra, who saw his effort spin off the top of the crossbar.
In the end a 1-0 result isn’t the end of the world but it could have been a lot better.
Veremko; Zhavernchik (Hleb 60), Dubra, Polykov, Pikk; Karnitski (Volodjko 88), Rios, Ivanic (Gordeichuk 68), Kendysh, Stasevich; Rodionov. Subs not used: Scherbitski, Gajduchik, Mozolevski, Gvilia.
Rogers; Gannon, Barrett, Boyle, Massey; McEleney (Shields HT), Benson (Mountney HT), O’Donnell, Horgan; Finn, McMillan (Kilduff 78). Subs not used: Sava, Grimes, Poynton, Meenan.
Y Aranovskiy (Ukraine).
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