Dundalk v AZ Alkmaar

Dundalk host AZ Alkmaar at the Tallaght Stadium in Thursday night's Group D Europa League encounter

Ruaidhri Croke Thu, Nov 24
 
LIVE: Dundalk v AZ Alkmaar

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  • Good evening and welcome to The Irish Times liveblog of Dundalk's huge Europa League clash with AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght Stadium. My name is Ruaidhrí Croke and I'll be with you for the evening to take you through all of the action as Stephen Kenny's men look to take a further step towards history. You can get involved by using the 'Contact Us' button at the top of the blog or you can get me on Twitter @Ruaidhri_Croke.

    But, before we do anything else, there is some big news to bring you. That news is that Zenit St Petersburg have beaten Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2-0 in Russia - a result that further increases Dundalk's chances of making the last 32. That result means that the Lilywhites go into tonight's game in second place on four points with Maccabi on the same mark but behind on goal difference (-3 to Dundalk's -1). AZ sit bottom of the group with just two points meaning they must win in Tallaght tonight to have any chance of progressing. Dundalk's final game of the group is away to Maccabi in two weeks and - a win or even a draw here tonight - would leave them right in the driving seat when they travel to Israel.

    To do that however they must first take care of business tonight. The teams are on the pitch warming up with kick-off just under an hour away - 8.05pm to be precise.

    Team news on the way!

  • If it's difficult to make out the teams on that sheet due to the shadow, they're listed below.

    Dundalk:  Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Benson, O'Donnell, Finn, Horgan; Kilduff, McEleney

    Al Alkmaar: Rochet, Haps, Luckassen, Vlaar, Johansson, Rienstra, Seuntjens, Wuytens, Jahanbakhsh, Weghorst, Tankovic

  • So, three changes for Dundalk from the team that lost 2-1 to Zenit in Russia three weeks ago.  

    Chris Shields has failed to recover sufficiently from a groin strain and therefore takes his place on the bench with Stephen O'Donnell coming in to anchor the midfield alongside Patrick McEleney and Ronan Finn.

    Robbie Benson has recovered from a hamstring injury to return to the team on the right wing in place of John Mountney, while super sub Ciarán Kilduff is given a start - David McMillan the unfortunate party missing out there.

  • It's a perfect evening for football in Tallaght with very little wind and a temperature of about 5 degrees. That, for Dundalk, will feel toasty compared to the -10 they played in against Zenit three weeks ago. There will be no orange ball or snow on the pitch tonight!

    The teams have finished their warm-ups and returned to the dressing rooms. We're just 10 minutes from kick-off now!

  • The teams are on the pitch and we're nearly ready to go!

  • 1 min: AZ get the game underway in Tallaght!  (Dundalk 0 AZ 0)
  • 4 mins: AZ have started with the majority of possession and look to be quite attacking minded tonight with both full backs getting well forward early on.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 0)
  • 7 mins: A casual, poor pass from Gartland on the edge of his box gifts the ball to Wout Weghorst 25 yards from goal. However, before he can do anything with it, O'Donnell steams in with a tackle from behind to bring him down and give away a free kick. Stijn Wuytens swings a good delivery in to the box but Gary Rogers is quick off his line to punch away.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 0)
  • GOAL FOR AZ (WEGHORST, 9')

    DUNDALK 0 AZ ALKMAAR 1

  • 11 mins: Poor defending from Dundalk gifts AZ an early lead and it has been coming. The home side have struggled to do anything in the opposition's half while AZ have been fast on the attack. A corner from the left was only half cleared and and delivered straight back in by Seuntjens. Boyle and Gartland failed to communicate as confusion reined in the Dundalk six yard box with the ball bouncing back off Boyle's thigh and on to the foot of Weghorst who stroked it calmly in to the net from close range.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 14 mins: AZ are absolutely stifling Dundalk so far and not allowing them a second on the ball. They have been really impressive so far while Dundalk look flustered with even the ever reliable O'Donnell giving away a simple pass in the middle of the pitch.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 20 mins: After 20 minutes Dundalk finally get the ball into the AZ box but its swiftly cleared as Ron Vlaar rises to meet O'Donnell's free kick from the halfway line. The home side are really struggling to get any sort of foothold in the game so far.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 26 mins: Dundalk are beginning to come into it a slight bit more now. The poor passing in the midfield has largely been cut out and they're beginning to string a few moves together. Still no chances created as of yet however.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 28 mins: This is much better from Dundalk now. Benson picked it up in the middle, played a one two with Kilduff before finding Horgan who first time slipped it around the corner and into the path of Kilduff. The striker got into the AZ box but was foiled by a good tackle from Vlaar to divert the ball out for a corner. Horgan's corner is well cleared by the visitors but it's much more positive from Dundalk now. They've largely dominated in the last 10 minutes or so.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 31 mins: Dundalk manage to win a corner after a good spell of play. Finn cut into the box from the right and should have crossed early but instead twisted and turned and his eventual low cross was cleared.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 34 mins: This is much more encouraging from Dundalk, they're in control of the game now and have AZ on the rack. Finn tried his luck from 25 yards with a vicious shot towards the right top corner but it spun wide.  

    However some bad news as O'Donnell has pulled up and looks to be injured. He's playing on for a few minutes to try and run it off but it doesn't look great. He was nursing an injury coming into this game don't forget.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)

  • 37 mins: It's important that Dundalk keep this spell of pressure going now. A free-kick from the right is delivered by Horgan and met by Kilduff on the penalty spot but he fails to direct his head on target and it bounces well wide.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 39 mins: O'Donnell is off the pitch and receiving treatment. However he's going to come back on and looks like he'll try to make it to half-time and see how it is from there.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 41 mins: Scrap that, O'Donnell can do no more. He's replaced by John Mountney.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 44 mins: AZ almost make it two with a scintillating counter attack! It all came from a Dundalk corner which was half cleared to Benson who ran on to it on the egde of the box but missed his shot completely, allowing Jahanbakhsh to sprint down the left wing. He fed Tankovic in the middle who moved wide and delivered a dangerous low cross into the six yard box which Rogers did well to get a hand to and divert for a corner.  Jahanbakhsh's delivery was straight into the side netting and Dundalk can breathe. (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • HALF TIME: DUNDALK 0 AZ ALKMAAR
  • It's been a strange game in that the only real clear-cut chance so far has been the AZ goal. Apart from that the Dutch side haven't looked anything special and can only really pin their lead down to a dreadful start from Dundalk. However, since the 20th minute or so Dundalk have been the better team and are dictating the game. They will be confident they can get back into this quickly enough and hopefully then push for the win.

  • 46 mins: Dundalk get the game back underway. This is a huge 45 minutes for the home side!  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 48 mins: It's been a bit of a shaky start from Dundalk with a lot of loose passing. However, they're still in control as AZ fail to get a hold of the ball.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 51 mins: Gannon speeds down the right and bursts through to the edge of the box but seems to be in two minds as to whether to pass or shoot and in the end does neither. From 18 yards he should have had a go but you could see he was tentative to do so on his left foot.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 55 mins: Jahanbakhsh absolutely clatters into Benson on the left wing, right at the endline and Dundalk get a free kick. However, Horgan's delivery is very poor and cleared easily by the first man.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 59 mins: Chance for AZ!  The visitors put together a superb move through the middle to slice open the Dundalk defence and set Weghorst through on goal. The striker was one-on-one with Rogers and looked to have scored but the Dundalk goalkeeper sprung to his left to save miraculously. A superb stop.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 68 mins: Gary Rogers to the rescue! The Dundalk goalkeeper has kept his side in the game in the last 10 minutes. A beautifully weighted ball from Rienstra split the gap between Massey and Gartland, allowing Jahanbakhsh in behind on the left. He pulled it back to Seuntjens who took a touch and shot low towards the bottom corner but Rogers spread himself to save with his left foot.

    From the corner, Vlaar's header was cleared off the line by Gannon before Rogers again saved from Seuntjens shot. Dundalk are living on the edge now, the Dutch side have completely taken over the game in the last 15 minutes or so.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)

  • 75 mins: Time is beginning to run out for Dundalk now and AZ are looking more and more in control. Weghorst and Jahanbakhsh link up nicely on the right to get in behind Massey. The goalscorer decided to shoot low towards Rogers post instead of crossing but the Dundalk keeper was up to the task, tipping it on to the post and out for a corner which he gathers.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 77 mins: Finally Kenny makes a change. It's needed as Dundalk don't look like getting an equaliser at the moment. David McMillan replaces Ciaran Kilduff.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 80 mins: A second change quickly follows as Dean Shiels comes on for McEleney. Dundalk need to go for this now.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 81 mins: Wuytens comes in from behind on McMillan and gives away a free kick in a central position 35 yards out. It's too far for the shot and Horgan must instead try to angle a ball to the back post but it's another poor delivery from a man who has not been up to his usual form tonight. It evades the head of everyone and runs out for a goal kick.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 83 mins: Chance for Dundalk! Finn plays a one-two with Horgan on the edge of the box before trying an audacious scooped lob over Rochet which bounces inches wide of the post!  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 85 mins: Chance for Dundalk! Horgan is beginning to pull the strings now and this time turns on the edge of the box before finding Gannon. The full-back took a touch to steady himself and unleashed a low shot towards goal but a deflection took it wide. That looked to be heading in as well! The corner comes to nothing but Dundalk have it back with a throw-in on the left.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 88 mins: AZ manage to clear and are now holding the ball at the corner flag down on the Dundalk endline. Time is running out...(Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 90 mins: From the right Gannon hoists a hopeful ball into the box but McMillan can't get any decent contact on it and it bounces wide. We'll have three minutes of added time.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 90+2 mins: Dundalk have a free-kick on the halfway line. Everyone is in the box. This is it...(Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • 90+3 mins: After working it short and Benson trying his luck, Mountney eventually gets it into the box but it's cleared. That looks like it should be that.  (Dundalk 0 AZ 1)
  • FULL TIME: DUNDALK 0 AZ ALKMAAR 1
  • Well, that's that. And now it's AZ who are in the driving seat to progress to the last 32 in second place.

    Despite enjoying a lot of possession and putting together some good spells of play, Dundalk never really created any clear cut chances and it would be hard to argue that they deserved anything out of this.  

    It all comes down to Israel, then.  

    Heading in to that game the group stands as follows:

    1. Zenit 15 pts (+10 GD)

    2. AZ 5 pts (-5 GD)

    3. Dundalk 4 pts (-2 GD)

    4. Maccabi Tel Aviv 4 pts (-3 GD)

    Nothing less than a win will do Dundalk in Tel-Aviv and that's hoping AZ don't beat Zenit. However, Maccabi are in the exact same position and will be going all out for the win.

    It certainly should be an interesting encounter!

  • So that's it from me tonight. It wasn't quite up to the exceptionally high standards Dundalk have set so far this season but they're still in with a good chance of progressing. That Maccabi game is this day two weeks so be sure to join me for that.

    Stay tuned to irishtimes.com/sport for reports and reaction from Tallaght but with that I will leave you. Thanks for reading, bye!