Football | McEleney bags brace as Dundalk draw with Vitesse in the Netherlands
Patrick McEleney has scored a brace in Dundalk's 2-2 draw with Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League qualifiers.
McEleney scored twice in 11 mintues (65, 76) after Matus Bero had given Vitesse a 20th-minute lead in the first leg of the third round qualifier in the Netherlands.
Ikoma Lois Openda drew the hosts level in the 89th minute before being sent off a minute later in a dramatic ending to a gripping tie at the GelreDome.
Vitesse dominated the opening period of the match, and Lilywhites goalkeeper Alessio Abibi had to be alert to make a smart save from Yann Gboho in the 18th minute, with Andy Boyle well-placed to block the follow-up.
The Eredivisie side made their early pressure pay with a goal in the 20th minute.
Slovakia international Bero applied a clinical finish to Million Manhoef's clever through ball as Vitesse caught Dundalk on the counter from the visitors' corner, which left the Irish side exposed after Daniel Kelly's shot was blocked down.
McEleney almost restored parity soon afterwards with a powerful strike from distance, but his effort struck the crossbar on its way over.
Vitesse almost doubled their lead in the 37th minute, with Openda flashing a shot narrowly wide after Dave McMillan was caught in possession by Sondre Tronstad.
A minute later, Abibi produced another excellent save to deny Nikolai Frederiksen a certain goal.
The Dundalk goalkeeper was the hero again in stoppage time, making a crucial double save to deny Bero.
Vitesse came roaring out of the traps in the second half, with Abibi forced to tip Tomas Hajek's header over the crossbar, and defender Riechedly Bazoer hitting the post with a fine effort from distance.
However, it was Vinny Perth's visitors who grabbed the game's vital second goal.
in the 65th minute, substitute Patrick Hoban kept an attack alive and rolled the ball back to Raivis Jurkovskis, who whipped in an inviting cross from the right touchline.
McEleney met the cross with a powerful header from eight yards, which he looped brilliantly back across goal and into the far corner past Vitesse goalkeeper Markus Schubert.
Oussama Tannane threatened to restore Thomas Letch's hosts' lead at the other end, but Abibi was equal to his low effort.
McEleney then produced a moment of magic in the 76th minute to make it 2-1.
The 28-year-old collected Hoban's excellent through ball just inside the Vitesse half before dribbling to the edge of the box.
A delightful back-heel left the sliding Danilho Doekhi in McEleney's wake, and the Derry native then showed wonderful composure to nonchalantly chip the ball over Schubert.
Vitesse found a leveller in the 89th minute, with Openda finishing well from close range to deny Dundalk victory.
The Belgian was then sent off in stoppage time for kicking out at Sam Stanton.
Dundalk will host Vitesse at Tallaght Stadium in the return leg next Thursday.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old Aidomo Emakhu scored the winner in Shamrock Rovers’ 1-0 home win over Teuta Durres in the Hoops’ Europa Conference League qualifier at Tallaght Stadium.