Dundalk drew 1-1 against Qarabag at Oriel Park last night.
Qarabag took a fourth minute lead through a Mahir Madatov header, before Pat Hoban headed Dundalk level 12 minutes from time to leave the two-legged tie delicately poised ahead of the second leg.
The Lilywhites will now make the 5,000km trip to Azerbaijan next week in the knowledge that they need to score at least once to progress to the third round of Champions League qualifiers.
Vinny Perth’s men will take heart from their second half showing against Qarbag, but will be the clear underdogs in Baku on Tuesday against a team who are placed above the likes of AC Milan, Lille, and Everton in UEFA’s co-efficient rankings.
Here, we analyse Qarabag’s home record at Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium in European competition over the past five seasons.
We also look at Dundalk’s away record in Europe over a similar period.
In the 2014/15 season, Qarabag qualified for the Europa League group stages after exiting the Champions League qualifiers.
They trounced Malta side Valletta 4-0 in Baku (5-0 on aggregate) in the second round of Champions League qualifiers.
Qarabag then beat Red Bull Salzburg in the first leg of their third round clash at Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, before a 2-0 loss in Austria knocked them out.
They overcame FC Twente on away goals in their play-off for the Europa League, drawing 0-0 at home and 1-1 away.
Qarabag were drawn in Group F alongside Inter Milan, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, and Saint-Étienne.
The Azerbaijan side picked up scoreless draws against Inter and Saint-Étienne in Baku, but suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Dnipro.
They beat Dnipro 1-0 away, and drew 1-1 in France, but lost 2-0 at the San Siro.
Qarabag finished third in the group on six points, just one point off Dnipro in second, but six off group winners Inter.
Qarabag also qualified for the group stages of the Europa League in the 2015/16 season.
They beat Rudar Pljevlja 1-0 on aggregate – drawing 0-0 at home – in the second round of Champions League qualifying, before drawing Celtic in the third round.
Celtic won the first leg 1-0 in Glasgow, before holding out for a scoreless draw in Baku to eliminated Qarabag.
Qarabag beat Young Boys 4-0 in the play-off, winning 3-0 on home soil as they cruised into the Europa League group stages.
They were drawn alongside Spurs, Monaco, and Anderlecht in Group J.
Once again, they finished bottom of the group on four points, but picked up some eye-catching results nonetheless.
Anderlecht suffered a 1-0 defeat in Baku, Monaco had to settle for a 1-1 draw, and Spurs came away with a narrow 1-0 win.
Qarabag, however, lost all three away matches.
Group winners Spurs beat them 3-1 at White Hart Lane, Monaco won 1-0 on home soil, and Anderlecht (who finished second in the group) won 2-1 in Belgium.
They were eliminated from the group stages having won two and drew three of their six European home matches in total that season.
Qarabag competed in the Europa League group stages in the 2016/17 season.
They beat Dudelange 2-0 at home in the second round of Champions League qualifiers, drawing 1-1 away in Luxembourg to go through comfortably on aggregate.
‘Atlılar’ (‘The Horsemen’ in English) were eliminated in the third round on away goals by Viktoria Plzeň, who drew 1-1 in Baku after a scoreless draw in the Czech Republic.
They eased past Goteborg in their subsequent Europa League play-off, winning 3-0 at home and 3-1 on aggregate to enter a group with Fiorentina, PAOK, and Slovan Liberec.
Fiorentina beat Qarabag 2-1 in Azerbaijan and 5-1 in Italy.
Qarabag did the double over PAOK, beating the Greeks 2-0 at home and 1-0 away.
However, a home 2-2 draw and a surprise 3-0 away defeat to Slovan Liberec proved costly.
Qarabag finished third in the group on seven points, six points behind Fiorentina (first) and three behind PAOK (second).
In six European home matches that season, Qarabag won three, drew two, and lost one.
Their home form was excellent overall, but they lost four of their six games on the road.
Qarabag became the first club from Azerbaijan to make the group stages of the Champions League in the 2017/18 season.
They put five past Samtredia in Baku in the second round of qualifying, winning 1-0 away to win 6-0 on aggregate.
Qarabag beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 away, drawing 0-0 at home, in the third round.
Copenhagen were overcome on away goals in the play-off, with Qarabag winning 1-0 in Baku and losing 2-1 in Denmark.
Qarabag were then drawn into a tough group containing Chelsea, Roma and Atletico Madrid.
They drew home (0-0) and away (1-1) with Atletico, results which ultimately caused the La Liga club to finish third in the group.
Chelsea won 4-0 in Azerbaijan and 6-0 at Stamford Bridge – the latter Qarabag’s heaviest ever European defeat – and Roma also prevailed in both legs, winning 2-1 in Baku and 1-0 in Italy.
Qarabag finished bottom of the group on two points.
Overall, they won two and drew two of their six home games in Europe that season.
Qarabag reached the third round of Champions League qualifiers last season before entering the group stages of the Europa League.
They beat Olimpija Ljubljana 1-0 in Slovenia in the first leg of their first round qualifier before drawing 0-0 at home in the return fixture.
Qarabag then hammered Albanian side Kukësi 3-0 in Baku in the second round after being forced to settle for a scoreless draw in the first leg.
However, they lost 1-0 at home to BATE Borisov (who Dundalk famously beat 3-1 at Oriel Park in 2016) in the first leg of their third round tie, going out on aggregate after drawing 1-1 away in Belarus in the second leg.
The Azerbaijan club then thumped Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 (3-1 on aggregate) at home in a play-off to make the Europa League group stages.
Qarabag were out of their depth in a tough group which contained eventual finalists Arsenal, Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, and Ukranian side Vorskla Poltava.
They finished fourth in the group on just three points, losing all three home games in Baku.
Arsenal beat them 3-0 at Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, and Sporting inflicted a 6-1 thrashing; Qarabag’s heaviest ever defeat in European competition.
Qarabag beat Vorskla in Ukraine, but lost 1-0 to the visitors in Baku.
In total, Dundalk’s opponents won twice, drew once, and lost four times in their seven home European clashes in the ’18/19 season.
Dundalk’s away form in Europe
Dundalk’s away record in Europe over the past four seasons (before the 2014/15 season they had not participated in qualifiers since 2010/11) is mixed.
They obviously drew 0-0 in Riga and subsequently won on penalties in the first round of this season’s Champions League qualifiers. Here’s how they fared over the past five years in Europe.
Dundalk beat Luxembourg club Jeunesse Esch 2-0 away – and 3-1 at Oriel Park – in the first round of Europa League qualifiers in the ’14/15 season.
The Lilywhites lost 2-0 at home to Hajduk Split in the next round, and lost 3-2 on aggregate despite beating the Croatians 2-1 away from home.
It was a short European campaign, but Dundalk won both of their away games.
Dundalk were eliminated in the first round of the 2015/16 Europa League qualifiers by BATE Borisov.
The Louth club drew 0-0 at home but lost 2-1 in Belarus.
The most famous European campaign in Dundalk’s history.
In the second round of Champions League qualifiers, Dundalk beat Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar (FH) 3-3 on aggregate, drawing 1-1 at home and 2-2 away against the Icelandic side.
Another clash against BATE awaited in the third round, but this time the Lilywhites were victorious.
The SSE Airtricity League champions demolished BATE 3-0 in Tallaght, and a 1-0 away defeat in the first leg wasn’t enough to halt their march.
Dundalk lost 2-0 to Legia Warsaw at the Aviva, and despite an impressive 1-1 draw in Poland, exited the Champions League qualification with the compensation of a place in the group stages of the Europa League.
Stephen Kenny’s charges joined Zenit Saint Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar and Maccabi Tel Aviv in Group D.
They lost 2-1 home and away to Zenit, and also lost 1-0 at home to AZ.
However, the Lilywhites picked up a creditable 1-1 draw against AZ in Holland.
Dundalk also beat Maccabi 1-0 in Dublin but lost 2-1 in Tel Aviv.
They were perhaps unlucky to finish bottom of Group D on four points.
Their away record during their thrilling European adventure amounted to three draws and three defeats from six games, versus two wins and a draw in as many home matches.
Encouragingly, they scored in five of those six matches outside of Ireland.
Dundalk were eliminated by Rosenborg in the second round of the Champions League qualifiers in the ’17/18 season.
After a 1-1 draw in Ireland, the Lilywhites lost 2-1 after extra time in Norway, ending their European adventure at the first hurdle.
Last season, Dundalk beat Levadia Tallinn home and away in the second round of the Champions League qualifiers, winning 2-1 at home and 1-0 in Estonia.
However, Stephen Kenny’s men were smashed 4-0 by AEK Larnaca in the third round, losing 4-0 on aggregate.
Qarabag are clearly far more experienced in Europe than Dundalk.
They have contested 31 home European matches in the last five seasons (before this season), in contrast to Dundalk’ 12 over the same period.
The last five seasons tell us that Qarabag have unsurprisingly been far stronger at home than away in Europe. In these 31 matches, Qarabag have won 11 times, drawn on 11 occasions, and lost nine times.
Impressively, they also have a 100% record of progressing through Europa League play-off ties (four from four) in the last five seasons, as well as making the Champions League group stages once, though they have failed to advance through any of these groups.
Qarabag have picked up some eye-catching home wins against the likes of Anderlecht, Young Boys, Salzburg and Copenhagen in the past five seasons, as well as some comprehensive victories over lesser opponents.
Throw draws with Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Celtic, Monaco and FC Twente into the equation, and you have an idea of the tough task awaiting Dundalk – who have already conceded an away goal – in Baku.
Dundalk’s away record over a similar period stands at three wins, three draws, and six defeats in 12 matches (excluding the recent encounter against Riga) on the road.
However, the Lilywhites showed in the second half at Oriel Park that they are capable of hurting the Azerbaijan club, and they are still firmly in this tie.
Can the League of Ireland champions embark on another special European run?