Legia Warsaw 1 Dundalk 1 (Legia Warsaw win 3-1 on aggregate)
Brave Dundalk made their exit from the Champions League in Poland on Tuesday night but went out with their heads held high after a 1-1 draw with Legia Warsaw at the Polish Army Stadium.
Faced with an uphill task of trying to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg, Robbie Benson’s wonderful 20th minute volley put the League of Ireland champions just one goal away from levelling the tie on aggregate.
And things took another turn for the good when Legia full-back Adam Hlousek was given his marching orders for a second yellow card in the 67th minute.
Stephen Kenny’s side tried in vain to get the elusive second goal but they ran out of steam as the game wore on and the Polish champions secured their place in the group stages when Michal Kucharczyk smashed an injury time effort past Gary Rogers to shatter Dundalk’s dream.
Kenny promised that his side would take the game to Legia and that was reflected in his team selection. Benson came in for the suspended Stephen O’Donnell with Ronan Finn also recalled in place of John Mountney.
The Polish club, who were looking to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time since 1995, named an unchanged line-up from the first leg with Hull City-bound Nemanja Nikolic leading the line.
Dundalk lined up with a diamond formation with Daryl Horgan operating just off David McMillan and there was an early taster of what was to come when a surging run by Benson set alarm bells ringing in the Warsaw defence.
His progress was unceremoniously halted by Vadis Odjidja who found his way into Norwegian referee, Svein Oddvar Moen’s notebook. Horgan’s subsequent free-kick was easily gathered by Arkadiusz Malarz.