Football/Soccer

Dundalk can handle the heat in Baku to make European progress - Jamie McGrath

Dundalk's Jamie McGrath gets away from Qarabag's Ailton during last week's first leg at Oriel Park

Uefa Champions League second qualifying round, second leg: FK Qarabag (1) v Dundalk (1) (tonight, 6pm)

DUNDALK can’t afford any more early sucker punches if they are to progress in tonight’s Champions League second qualifying round tie against Qarabag, according to Jamie McGrath.

The League of Ireland champions had a disastrous start in last week’s first leg at Oriel Park, conceding an away goal after just four minutes, and McGrath knows if the same were to happen tonight in Baku, it could be lights out for their Champions League ambitions.

“It took us until half-time to get right after the goal because I thought we actually started the game quite well,” the midfielder said.

“To concede from a corner, it was poor from our part. We know we can’t have that happen again if we are to win the tie, so it was a learning curve for us on the night. We are happy with our second-half performance.

“They are dangerous on the counter, but we want to take that performance into the game tomorrow. It was great to get the equaliser back and leave us level. We could have possibly had a couple more – I had a chance or two, but it wasn’t to be and, after our first-half, it was good to play like we did in the second-half and we can take confidence from that.”

It was Patrick Hoban’s second-half header which rescued last week’s tie and McGrath is confident Dundalk can cope with the Azerbaijani summer to secure a result. Tonight’s game will kick-off at 9pm local time with the temperature still in the mid-20s, but McGrath thinks they can handle it.

“Larnaca away last year in Cyprus was tough, with the heat and humidity, but most of the squad played there last year, so we’ll have benefited from that,” added the 22-year-old.

“We’ll be training at the stadium tonight at a similar time to the game, which will help, plus our warm-weather training in Spain during the summer break will all be of benefit.

“We’re taking confidence from the second-half last week. When we got on top of them in the last half-an-hour in particular, they didn’t really know what to do with us and how to stop us, so that has given us confidence.

“We are going to have to make it difficult for them. If we do that then we have a good chance and hopefully we can get the result which takes us through.”

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