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Published: 18:51 | 15/9/16

Dundalk gain historic point in Alkmaar

Ciaran Kilduff headed home an 89th-minute equaliser, as ten-man Dundalk drew 1-1 with AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League.

But the match was marred by a serious injury to Alkmaar's goalscorer Stijn Wuytens, who was caught by Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers as he headed home Rens van Eijden's cross to give the home side the lead on the hour mark.

Following frantic calls from the Alkmaar players, medical staff ran on to the pitch to treat the 26-year-old, and coach John van den Brom and winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh were left in tears as he was carried off the field at the AFAS Stadion after five minutes of treatment.

However, the Dutch club confirmed that Wuytens subsequently regained consciousness in the dressing-room, and was alert and talking in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

The injury threatened to put a dampener on the match, but Stephen Kenny's side held their nerve to equalise and secure the first point for an Irish side in European group stage competition, as well as €120,000 in prize money.

The Irish champions could have been a goal down after just two minutes, with Jahanbakhsh cutting inside Andy Boyle but striking the far post, after Ronan Finn had lost possession cheaply in midfield to Wuytens.

But Dundalk started to hold their own as the half wore on, with David McMillan shooting weakly at Alkmaar goalkeeper Sergio Rochet after beating Ron Vlaar to Sean Gannon's ball down the right channel.

Daryl Horgan had Dundalk's best chance of the half on 34 minutes, skipping past Rens van Ejden and Vlaar to collect a pass from McMillan, only to see Rochet out smartly to charge down his shot.

Patrick McEleney then warmed Rochet's hands with an optimistic effort from outside the area on 40 minutes, but Dundalk were handed a let off just before the interval when Fred Friday had an effort ruled out for offside by the assistant referee.

The Nigerian looked yards offside when he swept the ball past Rogers from the edge of the six-yard box but TV replays showed that the 21-year-old was level when Derrick Luckassen took his initial shot.

The Eredivisie side, booed off at the break, had a great opportunity to take the lead early in the second half, but Luckassen was too selfless at the far post and a combination of Gannon and Rogers were able to hack clear.

After Wuytens' goal, and the long stoppage that resulted, both teams struggled for fluency, and Dundalk were dealt a further blow on 71 minutes when influential skipper Stephen O'Donnell was shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Ridgeciano Haps.

Rogers then made a fine stop to keep out a Dabney Souza effort after blocking Mattias Johansson's initial effort, and. moments later, the veteran goalkeeper was helped out by a goalline clearance by Boyle from Luckassen's flick.

The part-timers of Dundalk seemed dead on their feet at this stage, desperate simply to get into the Alkmaar half and maybe get a half chance from a set-piece.

And their hopes, incredibly, were realised as the ten men levelled on 89 minutes with Kilduff, who suffered a fractured vertebra in his back at the end of last season, heading home an inch-perfect Horgan free-kick from the left.

Next up for Dundalk in Europe are back-to-back home games against Maccabi Tel Aviv on 29 September and Zenit St Petersburg on 20 October.

Russian side Zenit were 4-3 winners over Maccabi in Thursday's other Group D tie at the Bloomfield Stadium in the Israeli capital.

By Nick Royle

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