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Dundalk’s European dream just gets better and better after a Ciaran Kilduff goal gave them a fully deserved 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Tallaght Stadium.
The three points which came courtesy of the forward's neat finish on 72 minutes came after a game in which the League of Ireland side were superior to their more illustrious opponents.
The victory was the first by an Irish side in European group stage history and leaves Stephen Kenny's side in second place in Group D, two points behind leaders Zenit St. Petersburg who they now play back-to-back.
Dundalk fully merited the win, dominating their Israeli opponents and they even wasted a number of good chances in the opening 45 minutes.
The second period continued in the same vein and Dundalk finally got the breakthrough when the impressive Daryl Horgan's cross was volleyed home expertly by Kilduff.
Having opened their quest to book a scarcely believable place in the knockout stages of European competition by snatching a 1-1 draw with a stoppage time header from Kilduff at AZ Alkmaar, Dundalk knew a win in their first home game would catapult them right into contention and thanks to the former Shamrock Rovers striker they are well in the hunt.
However, this was a real team effort with Dundalk's willingness to hunt down the opposition and their bravery and ability in possession testament to the incredible job Kenny's done.
Special mention must go to Horgan who surely must be knocking very loudly on Martin O'Neill's door for a call-up to the Irish international squad.
It was a truly memorable night for the League of Ireland and few would bet against this brilliant side extending their odyssey to the knockout stages.
Manchester United's chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the Europa League received a boost on matchday two after they edged past Zorya Luhansk 1-0 at Old Trafford.
The hosts struggled to break down a stubborn opposition defence for much of the game and needed Zlatan Ibrahimovic's far post header midway through the second half to see off the tidy Ukrainian side.
In his pre-match press conference Jose Mourinho had stressed the need for his side to take all three points after their limp opening fixture defeat at Feyenoord and his line-up certainly reflected that; David de Gea and Ander Herrera were among four players who dropped out of the starting 11 which thumped Leicester City at the weekend, Sergio Romero and Marouane Fellaini among those recalled.
Wayne Rooney was again left on the bench and he was joined there by expensive talent such as Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ashley Young; Matteo Darmian’s future at the club looks bleak after he failed to make the squad for what is seen as a secondary competition.
At a far-from-full Old Trafford which had the top tiers of the East Stand and the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand closed, the hosts controlled much of the possession but found chances difficult to create against their well-organised opponents.
Zorya also posed a threat on the rare occasions they were able to launch counter-attacks, breaking in numbers at pace and the Utd backline had to stay vigilant.
The closest Utd went to breaking the deadlock in the first half was Rashford’s thunderbolt on 21 minutes with his effort rattling the crossbar, bouncing down but, crucially, not over the line.
As the opening period entered its closing stages the visitors came under increasing pressure with Juan Mata heading over from a Paul Pogba cross while minutes later Jesse Lingard’s header was blocked on the line by Rafael Forster.
The second half continued in a similar form although the English side perhaps struggled more to create openings and Zorya served notice of their threat on the break when substitute Paulinho's lovely curling effort from outside the box drew a smart save from Romero on the stretch.
The deadlock was finally broken on 68 minutes when Timothy Fosu-Mensah's cross found Rooney - who had come on minutes earlier for Lingard - unmarked on the penalty spot and although the forward badly mishit his shot with his knee, the ball looped up and fell onto the grateful head of Ibrahimovic at the back post and the Swede made no mistake from close range.
Zorya were forced to push forward in search of an equaliser but despite
their best efforts Utd saw out the remainder of the match in relative comfort.
In Group K, Southampton remain on top of the table after they earned a valuable point against Hapoel Be'er-Sheeva in a dour 0-0 draw in Israel.
Claude Puel’s side did not have a single shot on target in the first half with the recalled Shane Long not even having any scraps to live off up front.
The game improved slightly in the second half with James Ward-Prowse testing the keeper from distance while at the other end Maor Melikson and Ben Sahar both went close for the home side.
In truth though it was a game which was painful to watch at time and both sides sit level on four points with the Saints superior goal difference keeping them in first place.
They are one ahead of Sparta Prague, who made it two defeats from two for Frank de Boer’s Inter Milan.
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