Football | Hoban rescues Dundalk draw against Qarabag

Dundalk have drawn 1-1 with Qarabag at Oriel Park.

The visitors made the perfect start to the first leg of their Champions League second round qualifier, taking the lead in just the fourth minute through a Mahir Madatov header.

However, Patrick Hoban drew Dundalk level in the 78th minute to leave the tie delicately poised ahead of the return leg in Azerbaijan next week.

Gary Rogers made his 42nd European appearance, setting a new record for a League of Ireland player, but the Lilywhites ‘keeper was beaten inside five minutes.

Sean Hoare conceded a needless corner with an errant back pass, and Qarabag punished Dundalk ruthlessly.

Jaime Romero’s corner was met by the head of Madatov, who headed past Rogers – via a deflection off Hoban – to give Qarabag a dream start and a crucial away goal.

The visitors – who competed in the group stages of the Champions League two years ago – dominated proceedings in the first half, and nearly doubled their advantage in just the sixth minute, with Simeon Slavchev heading wide after being picked out by Mahir Emreli.

Abdellah Zoubir caused Dundalk all sorts of problems, and almost got on the scoresheet on the half hour mark.

The tricky winger breezed past Sean Gannon and Andy Boyle before firing just wide.

To make matters worse, the Lilywhites lost Robbie Benson to a rib injury after just 27 minutes, with Sean Murray replacing the midfielder.

Rogers made two excellent saves to deny Slavchev and Zoubir respectively as the half wore on, with Vinny Perth’s hosts struggling to get to grips with the quality of the opposition.

Perth will have been glad to get his players into the dressing room just one goal down at the interval given Qarabag’s dominance and early goal, and Dundalk were much improved in the second half.

Patrick McEleney fired over as Dundalk began to put pressure on the experienced visitors, but Qarabag almost scored a second goal in the 57th minute.

Zoubir played Romero through but the midfielder skied his effort after Boyle was caught in possession.

Romero then stung Rogers’ palms with a long-range effort, with Richard Almeida putting the rebound over the bar.

Dundalk got their all-important equalizer 12 minutes from time.

Rahil Mammadov recovered well to block a Jamie McGrath effort at the expense of a corner.

Murray’s resulting corner eventually fell to Hoban, who nodded past Vagner to score his first Champions League goal.

With Oriel Park rocking, and Qarabag on the back foot, Dundalk had several opportunities to take the lead.

McGrath forced Vagner into a save under pressure from a Gannon cut-back, Duffy flashed a shot wide, and Massey fired a great chance over the bar in stoppage time.

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Robbie Benson (Sean Murray 27); Jamie McGrath, Patrick McEleney. (John Mountney 69), Michael Duffyl Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 83).

Qarabag: Vagner; Maksim Medvedev (Abbas Huseynov 53), Rashad Sadygov, Rahil Mammadov, Ailton; Simeon Slavchev, Gara Garayev; Jaime Romero (Araz Abdullayev 87), Richard Almeida, Abdellah Zoubir; Mahir Emreli.