Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny believes that Dane Massey’s second-half header hitting the post was the turning point in his side’s 2-1 Europa League defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in Tallaght.

The Lilywhites more than held their own against the highest-ranked team in the competition, and took a 1-0 second-half lead thanks to Robbie Benson’s long-range effort.

The Russian side, who feature a host of international stars, were rattled and things could have got ever better for Dundalk on 62 minutes when Massey saw his header cannon back off the left post.

Zenit drew level nine minutes after that chance and went in front with 13 minutes to go, but Kenny believes that had that Massey effort gone in, it would have been a different game.

"They didn’t have any chances up until their goal," he said. "They had a lot of the play which you would expect – they're in the Champions League every year and they’re one of the favourites for the competition so you’d expect that.

"I think we counter-attacked very well and had the better chances up until the hour point.

"Obviously Robbie Benson got a goal, it was his third in Europe but unfortunately Dane Massey had a header off the post. That was the turning point really, we would have gone 2-0 up.

"I'm very proud on my players, I thought they gave everything. It was their seventh game in 21 days, real tough going and they showed tremendous effort.

"We just came out the wrong side of a narrow defeat."

Kenny still has an eye on the knockout stage of the completion and despite the defeat to Zenit, Dundalk remain in second place in the group.

The Dundalk boss believes that AZ Alkmaar’s trip to Dublin on 24 November will be crucial and pin-pointed that game as his side’s most important.

"We're on four points but we’ve got to go to Russia now and the game against AZ at home is a big game for us here," he said.

"Our performances have been good at home so that’s a massive game for us before we go to Israel which could decide it really.

"We're still in there and we still want to qualify."