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What Does Tonight's Sickening Result Mean For Dundalk's Progression Chances?

What Does Tonight's Sickening Result Mean For Dundalk's Progression Chances?
By Conor Neville Updated

Pat Fenlon hammered the point in the post-match analysis tonight that Dundalk now know they must win in Tel Aviv in two weeks time to have any chance of staying alive in the competition.

This realisation, he said, will put them in a better frame of mind ahead of the final group game.

We endorse this mentality from a playing perspective but, from a strict mathematical standpoint, it is not quite accurate.

Yes, for what it's worth, Dundalk could still draw in Israel and progress to the next round of the Europa League.

Here's how it goes. Zenit maintain their 100% record and defeat AZ, leaving the Dutch side on five points. If Dundalk manage a score draw - any score draw - with Maccabi Tel Aviv, then it will be good enough to progress.

All three sides - Maccabi, Dundalk, Alkmaar - will lie on five points. It would then go to a triangular head-to-head competition between the competing clubs.

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All will have collected five points against one another. Dundalk will have picked up four points off Maccabi. Alkmaar will have taken four points off Dundalk. And Maccabi will have collected four points off Alkmaar.

Not only that but in the event that Dundalk draw 1-1 in Israel, both the goal difference and the goals-scored record in this triangular competition will be identical.

NOTE: Crucially, if Dundalk draw 0-0 in Israel, they will lose out to their rivals in goals-scored. If they draw 2-2 in Israel, they will inch ahead of their rivals on goals-scored and qualify that way.

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It will turn then to overall goal difference. At present, in this particular battle, Dundalk are in pole position. In the above scenario, Alkmaar's goal difference can only difference can only disimprove following defeat to Zenit, while there will obviously be no change between Dundalk and Maccabi after a draw in Israel.

Dundalk will progress to the second round on goal difference after registering five points.

In this scenario, Group D would have an extraordinarily lopsided look to it. Zenit would lie top on 18 points. While the team qualifying alongside them would be 13 points behind.

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The bad news to emerge from tonight is that Dundalk's fate is no longer in their hands - which it had been prior to this home loss.

The surest way for Dundalk to put themselves in the frame for qualification is winning in Israel. But even then, they are dependent on Zenit avoiding defeat against AZ.

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With top spot already nailed down, Zenit have no special incentive to bust a gut in Holland. Happily, that was also true tonight and yet they still beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0.

In his post-match interview, Daryl Horgan expressed the belief that the remorseless Russians still have to be considered the favourites against AZ.

Finally, as we acknowledged earlier today, this type of 'weak-kneed mathematical speculation' tends to wind up more bullish supporters no end. We're sure that John Giles's face would scrunch up in disdain in someone shoved this paperwork under his nose.

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We endorse the Fenlon mentality. Dundalk should approach the next game as if they need a win. But if the score is 1-1 heading into the final ten minutes, they could do worse than indulge in a spot of time-wasting.

Read more: Why Was Andy Cole In Donald Trump's Thanksgiving Message To America Video?

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