DUNDALK’S European run was ended by a superior Levski Sofia side at Oriel Park last night but the Louth men at least gave as good as they got over the course of the 90 minutes.
Trailing 6-0 to the Bulgarians from last week’s first leg, Ian Foster’s side were always on a hiding to nothing in this game.
With a poor run of form on the domestic front that has seen them go down to four defeats in their last five matches and slip out of the title race, the Louth men will hope that a battling display here will lead to a turnaround in fortunes at home.
There was a fear that their heads might sink when French striker Garra Dembele, a scorer in the first leg, hit the net after just four minutes.
He would add a second midway through the second half to seal the tie but by and large Dundalk gave as good as they got after that with a display that belied their current run of form that has seen them win go down to four defeats in their last five league outings.
There was plenty of guts and determination shown by the hosts and that will surely give Foster some comfort as he looks to re-ignite their season at home.
Despite Yasen Petrov’s side possessing obvious class they did not get everything their own way on the night and it was Dundalk who managed to fashion the first chance of the evening when captain Stephen Maher tested Georgi Petkov from the edge of the area in the third minute.
Within a minute, however, the home side were picking the ball out of their net at the other end when Dembele gave Wayne Hatswell the slip to rifle past a helpless Peter Cherrie.
Dundalk didn’t let this effect their confidence though and could have pulled a goal back on 32 minutes when Tom Miller went close with an audacious lob.
Just as in the early stages, however, a near miss at one end was punished by a goal at the end though as Dembele added his second of the night when tapping home from close range a minute later after Cherrie had spilled a 35 yard free from Vladimir Gadzhev.
Levski had a couple of chances to add to their advantage in the second half, most notably when substitute Ismail Isa Mustafa was denied by the legs of Cherrie, but by and large Dundalk gave as good as they got with young midfielder Stephen McDonnell unlucky not to grab a consolation goal late on after forcing a good save from Petkov.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; McGuigan, G Breen, Hatswell, Synnott; McDonnell, Miller, Maher, Gaynor; Kuduzovic, Lennon (Mulvenna, 59 mins).
LEVSKI SOFIA: Petkov; Mulder, Miliev, Ivanov, Minev; Mladenov, Gadzhev (Ognyanov, 61 mins), Baltanov, Joaozinho (Kirov, 71 mins); Dembele (Isa Mustafa, 56 mins), Tasevski.
Referee: Firat Aydinus (Turkey).
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