Thursday 16th August 2007, 9:42 pm
16th August 2007
Drogheda United 1
Eamon Zayed 54
Henrik Larsson 34
Drogheda United and Sweden's Helsingborgs played out a 1-1 draw in the UEFA Cup 2nd qualifying round - 1st leg tie at Dalymount Park in Dublin.
All the talk going into the game had been about former Celtic, Barcelona and Man Utd striker Larsson and how Drogheda didn't plan on being star-struck. However, they got off to something of a shaky start, despite a great early chance.
A surging run through the middle by Shane Robinson created an opening. Robinson himself took it on, firing in a lofted shot at goal and Helsingborgs keeper Daniel Andersson was forced to beat it away at full stretch. The loose ball fell to Zayed but he could only head over from a good position.
Just seconds later Graham Gartland gifted possession to Larsson in a dangerous position with the visiting skipper playing in Razak Omotoyossi. Although he took it round keeper Dan Connor, Omotoyossi couldn't squeeze his shot on target on Drogheda somehow survived.
It was nip and tuck for a while until Cristofer Andersson dipped a shot not far over midway through the half.
The Drogs defence included Jason Gavin for the first time in months after a shoulder injury deprived the Drogs of his services. Ollie Cahill also made a welcome return from injury with a second half appearance.
Omotoyossi broke in on goal around the half hour but Connor was swiftly off his line to smother the chance at the attacker's feet.
The lead goal came on 34 minutes when Omotoyossi's cross found its way to Larsson and the former Swedish international fired home low past Connor.
A group of Glasgow Celtic fans had made the trip to Dublin to support the man they regard as a legend but save for a couple of brief periods in either half, Drogheda didn't look out of their depth.
The goal knocked Drogheda back a little but the game fizzled out to half-time with little else of note.
Tony Grant replaced Sami Ristila at the break before Cahill replaced James Keddy shortly after the restart. Richie Baker picked up a needless booking on 48 minutes when he slotted home a ball after the referee's whistle for an offside.
Larsson might well have made it 2-0 before Drogheda's leveller. The striker's slide just leaving him short of reaching Andreas Dahl's low driven cross.
Drogheda looked like wasting their chance on 54 minutes when Robinson and Zayed got the ball caught between them at waist height on the edge of the box. Zayed though has been a star in European games for Drogheda and he coolly took the ball down before slotting home a low shot for the equaliser.
Boosted by the goal, Brian Shelley again showed one of his surging runs through the middle, topping it off with a powerful shot goal and forcing a save from Andersson.
Drogheda were pressing for the lead and Robinson fired wide on the turn after a fortunate break off Grant. Grant just couldn't keep his feet as he tried to turn in the box in the closing fifteen minutes, not helped by a crowded defence which eventually cleared.
Baker departed with what looked like cramp on 78 minutes and the Drogs looked to be tiring. Robinson picked up a booking for a late challenge as Helsingborgs created a couple of late chances.
Macdonald Mariga saw his close range chance eventually crowded behind for a corner before seeing another effort find the back of the net. However, his last minute chance was ruled out instantly by a flag for offside.
Although the Swedes have the advantage of an away goal, the tie is very much alive and Drogheda will be optimistic ahead of the second leg in two weeks time.
Drogheda United : Connor, Shelley, Webb, Gavin, Gartland, Byrne, Baker (Keegan 78), Robinson, Keddy (Cahill 51), Ristila (Grant 46), Zayed.
Helsingborgs : D Andersson, Tamboura, Jakobsson, Svanback, Dahl, Mariga, Omotoyossi, Larsson, C Andersson, Wahlstedt, Runninberg.