Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers admitted he had to wing it a little to make crucial penalty saves from Stefan Panic and Armands Peterson in Skonto Stadium on Wednesday night.
The veteran keeper was a hero for Vinny Perth’s side on the night as his stops helped the Lilywhites to a 5-4 shoot-out success.
Despite doing his homework before the game on Riga’s takers, Rogers admitted that the changes made during the game made it difficult to judge trends in the various takers’ penalties.
“We’re grateful to get through,” he said afterwards.
“Over the two legs, on the balance of play I think we deserved it. We created a lot of chances in the first half but we knew it would come down to one goal and that away goal didn’t come for us. We’re just delighted to come out the right end of a penalty shootout as you never know what way they’re going to go.
“We did plenty of homework on their penalty takers, but actually very few of them were still on the pitch. We were really well prepared and I’m delighted to get the couple of saves,” he said.
Rogers said he hadn’t been involved in many shoot-outs in the past but had a feeling it was going that way on Wednesday.
“I got a feel early in the second-half that this was going to penalties. It’s one of those, they only had one chance in extra-time and it had that inevitability that it would go all the way to the shootout.
“I had the one in the Cup final with Cork. Maybe with Drogheda in the past there were others but only minor ones. It’s great to come out on the right side as we would have been gutted to lose it like that.”
Rogers said he was nervous his first save would come to nothing after Georgie Kelly missed a chance to put Dundalk through when he was denied by Roberts Ozols.
“When you get the last penalty save and it sets it up for the winner it’s hard to come back from that. We did though and got the right side of it.
“It’s a great night for the club and the players and one we will enjoy.”
A clash with Qarabag now awaits and it’s one Rogers is looking forward to.
“I’ve been to Kazakhstan so Azerbaijan will be a new one for me but it’s just great to be in the next round of the Champions League as that is the pinnacle for League of Ireland players.
“Qarabag are a really good side but we’re more than capable and we showed that in the past.
“We showed all our European pedigree to come through this game. Teams in the past would have forced it a little bit but we were patient and stuck to our game plan throughout and we were just unlucky that we didn’t get the goal during the game. We got what we deserved in the end.
“You have to enjoy this. It’s not too often that you win a Champions League game in that dramatic fashion and you have to enjoy the occasion. You could see from the lads that everyone really did,” he said.