03 Jul 2015
Ryan Swan's goal on the stroke of half-time earned UCD their first ever European win as they stunned higher-ranked opponents F91 Dudelange at the UCD Bowl.
The Students will take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their Europa League First Qualifying Round tie next week after Swan’s crucial goal. The striker held his nerve to slide the ball past Dudelange goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert after Robbie Benson caught Jerry Prempeh in possession 25 yards out and found the forward with a cool reverse pass.
It was the least UCD deserved for a battling display that saw them frequently penned back deep in their own area by their bigger and stronger opponents. They could easily have added to their tally in the second half as Dylan Watts and Chris Mulhall were thwarted by crossbar and goalkeeper respectively.
UCD boss Collie O'Neill made one change to the side that drew 1-1 in Cobh on Friday night, with Watts stepping up from the bench in place of Conor Cannon as O'Neill opted to start with Ryan Swan in the lone striker role.
Dudelange coach Michel Leflochman opted for a more traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Bosnian striker Sanel Ibrahimovic joined up front by the more diminutive Daniel Da Mota, in a line-up boasting five full Luxembourg internationals.
The hosts began the game in a positive manner and Ryan McLaughlin tested the visiting defence with an early lob over the top for Swan, but his pass was fractionally overhit and it ran through to Joubert.
Moments later, UCD's inexperience almost cost them as they were over-committed high up the pitch and, when Robbie Benson's forward pass was cut out, and it took a brilliant covering tackle from Tomás Boyle to spare Benson's blushes.
Dudelange began to use their superior physicality to control the game and, though they created few clear chances, the best they could muster in the first half a long-range shot from Ibrahimovic that cannoned back off the post as the UCD defence unwisely backed off.
Another UCD mistake allowed winger Sofian Benzouien to steal in behind Mark Langtry, but College goalkeeper Niall Corbet was quick off his line and spread himself to block the winger's goalbound shot.
Wingers Benzouien and Gregory Adler had further long distance efforts before the break, and their lack of a cutting edge in front of goal was to cost them in first half injury time when Swan strode in and gave the Students a half-time lead against the run of play.
The size and speed of the experienced professionals on the Dudelange side made it difficult for UCD to sustain any kind of meaningful possession, but Jamie Doyle and Swan worked tirelessly to ease the load on a defence that was being pressurised without looking unduly troubled.
On the one occasion the visitors did breach the UCD rearguard in the second half, Ibrhamovic somehow failed to make contact with Daniel Da Mota's inviting cross when any connection would have left Corbet stranded.
As the half wore on, the home side became more confident and came agonisingly close to doubling their lead when Jamie Doyle teed up Mulhall, but the winger's rasping drive was expertly tipped over by Joubert.
With little over five minutes remaining, Watts went one step closer as he collected Mulhall's pass on the edge of the D and, taking a touch to steady himself, hit a volley that beat Joubert but couldn't quite dip quick enough to evade the crossbar.
Dudelange substitute David Turpel – a sixth international – drove just wide from 25 yards as the clock ticked down, but UCD weren't to be denied and calmly ran down the clock to emerge unlikely victors and, still, the sole League of Ireland entrant never to suffer a home defeat in Europe.
UCD AFC: Niall Corbet; Ryan McLaughlin, Mark Langtry, Mick Leahy, Tomás Boyle; Gary O'Neill, Jamie Doyle, Dylan Watts (Jack Watson 90+2), Chris Mulhall, Robbie Benson; Ryan Swan.
Subs not used: Conor Mackey (gk), Sean Coyne, Maxim Kougun, Samir Belhout, Daire O'Conchubhair, Conor Cannon.
Booked: Doyle (82).
F91 Dudelange: Jonathan Joubert, Clayton Moreira, Romain Ney, Tom Schnell, Jerry Prempeh; Sofian Benzouien, Joel Pedro, Kevin Nakache, Gregory Adler (David Turpel 58); Sanel Ibrahimovic (Patrik Teixeira Pinto 84), Daniel De Mota (Alexandre Lauriente 74).
Subs not used: Michael Clemens (gk), Raphael De Sousa, Dylan Deligny, Donovan Maury.