Dundalk 2-4 Arsenal
While Dundalk’s exit from the Europa League was confirmed on matchday three the sense of an occasion was there to see with the visit of Arsenal to the Dublin Arena. It had been initially hoped that this would be the game that could see the return of fans to matches in Ireland. The spectacle would have been justly rewarded for those fans who had suffered due to the pandemic. While the scoreline saw Arsenal clinical when needed to be the scoreline should reflect a much more impressive display for Dundalk. The end of the season for Dundalk that was a disjointed as the year that it was in.
A lot to be done before the 2021 season starts including the offering or not of some seventeen players contracts.
The highlights from this end of season tie saw another clinical strike from Jordan Flores and the European Debut for Jamie Wynee.
Dundalk made three changes to the side which started Sunday’s FAI Cup final here with Sean Hoare, Darragh Leahy and Jordan Flores in for Brian Gartland, Cameron Dummigan and Greg Slogget
In what was a pretty uneventful opening period of the game, Andy Boyle uncharacteristic error was latched on by Eddie Nketiah who cut out the path of the ball and chipped it over Rogers to open the scoring. The celebrations were as muted as the sound in the stadium.
The solitary claps from the Arsenal bench summed up the painstaking spectacle for those in attendance. This game which would have been a joy for Dundalk fans to witness but was denied by the year that is 2020.
Dundalk almost responded in kind when Chris Shields on the half volley from the edge of the area did go over the bar proved that despite no points gathered in the group they remained intent to be competitive.
Dundalk’s task became even great when a quick phase of play from a corner saw Elneny hit a fantastic strike that left Rogers outstretched by not in a position to deny a fantastic goal – in reality, you just don’t stop that kind of efforts.
Dundalk did respond with a fantastic strike from Jordan Flores, the former Wigan player did excellently to win the initial ball and following a quick passing exchange with Michael Duffy the midfielder hit a powerful strike that Rúnarsson could not save. Flores goal reel for 2020 is a collection in itself.
Cedric was denied a third goal for Arsenal as his low effort from distance despite the bobble was tipped around the post by Rogers. The resulting corner came to no effect as Arsenal couldn’t capitalise on your attacking position. Maitlaind tried his luck with a curling effort from outside the area but was denied once again by Rogers. While Arsenal was getting their chances they had resulted in long-range efforts.
Dundalk was denied a great equalising opportunity when the Arsenal defence failed to clear McEleney’s cross and the ball fell to McEleney and his effort was blocked and wide. That intervention would have seen the left-back put Dundalk right back into the game.
The second half saw the early exchange Dundalk pinned to their collar at the defensive line as Dundalk’s defence denied Arsenal an early third goal. Michael Duffy had an excellent breakaway chance as he raced down the right and despite cutting the ball into the area the oncoming McMillan was denied an effort on goal and got injured in the build-up but sprinted down the pitch to join the attack only to be denied for his efforts.
Cedric nearly added a third for Arsenal with a well-taken free-kick, the set-piece was denied by Rogers once again.
Joe Willock added a third following collecting the ball from a layoff in the area and his strike while it took a deflection off Leahy who attempted to block the shot saw it go past Rogers. Folarin Balogun a second-half substitute got on the scoring act with a clever one-two which saw him curl the ball past Rogers.
The scoring wasn’t finished in the tie with Sean Hoare added another goal to his impressive Aviva Stadium highlight reel. Goals in the FAI Cup Final in 2018 and 2020 coupled with another excellently placed header from a free-kick meant it restored the two-goal deficit with just five minutes to play in the tie.
Tomorrow begins the preparations for 2021. Players contracts the forefront of their minds. The arrival of Jim Magilton springs hopes of a more structured approach to affairs at Oriel Park.
Hope is eternal in spring 2021.
Dundalk: 1 Gary Rogers 4 Sean Hoare 44 Andy Boyle (3 Brian Gartland 46) 21 Daniel Cleary 2 Sean Gannon (8 John Mountney 53) 5 Chris Shields 6 Jordan Flores 15 Darragh Leahy 11 Patrick McEleney (22 Stefan Colovic) 29 David McMillan (27 Daniel Kelly 52) 7 Michael Duffy (24 Jamie Wynne)
Subs: 20 Aaron McCarey 30 Jimmy Corcoran 10 Greg Sloggett 23 Cameron Dummigan
Arsenal: Runarsson, Cedric, Chambers, Mustafi, Mari, Maitland-Niles, Elneny (Dani Ceballos), Willock (Miguel Azeez), Smith Rowe (Ben Cottrell 66), Pepe, Nketiah (Folarin Balogun)
Subs: 33 Matt Macey 44 Karl Jakob Hein 7 Bukayo Saka16 Rob Holding 41 Ben Cottrell