Dundalk's Europa League campaign might have ended in defeat against Arsenal at the Aviva Stadium but they finished their season with their heads held high.

Few would have given the Co Louth men any chance against Mikel Arteta's men but they gave a good account of themselves even if it was the Premier League side who left with the three points.

Arsenal came into the game with a 100% record in Group B but despite taking a two-goal lead inside the opening 18 minutes, thanks to goals from Eddie Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny, Jordan Flores' 22nd-minute strike ensured the game was in the melting pot until the 67th minute.

At that point the visitors pulled away with further strikes from Joe Willock and Folarin Balogun but a Sean Hoare header five minutes from the end was no less than Filippo Giovagnoli's side deserved for a decent overall display even if it was against an Arsenal side without most of their big guns.

While their campaign was never likely to be judged on results against Arsenal, Dundalk will look back on this group with slight regret not to have taken at least a point from their exploits against Molde and Rapid Vienna.

As a result, they become the first side since Gabala in 2016/17 to finish a Europa League campaign without a point.

Having won the FAI Cup at the same venue on Sunday and banked around €4 million from Europe, Dundalk will be happy overall with what was a topsy-turvy season.

 Eddie Nketiah scores Arsenal's opener

Now the attention turns to tying down players for next season with 10 of the 16 players used in the game out of contract at the full-time whistle.

The arrival of new sporting director Jim Magilton should help in that regard.

The Gunners posed a threat from the outset with Nketiah having efforts blocked down inside the opening few minutes, firstly by Andy Boyle and then Hoare.

It would be third time lucky for Nketiah on 12 minutes, however, as he made the breakthrough. The former Leeds United loanee charged down Boyle's clearance before racing through to dink past Gary Rogers, despite Daniel Cleary's best efforts to keep the ball out on the line.

After Chris Shields fired over Dundalk's first attempt, Arsenal then doubled their lead with an absolute screamer on 18 minutes.

Emile Smith Rowe laid the ball off to Elneny 25 yards out with the Egyptian sending a rocket to the top right hand corner for his first goal for Arsenal since scoring in the 6-0 win over BATE Borisov in this competition three years ago.

Nicolas Pépé then blazed over a further good chance for the visitors after being picked out by Smith Rowe in the box before Dundalk pulled a goal back on 22 minutes.

Flores did well to get to Hoare's ball in from the touchline before exchanging passes with Michael Duffy to fire right footed past Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson to the left hand corner of the net.

Rogers was called into action after that to push away long-range efforts from Cédric Soares and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but Dundalk could well have been level at the break as Darragh Leahy's shot deflected over off Calum Chambers in stoppage time after Patrick McEleney's cross had dropped for him.

The FAI Cup winners then threatened again on 52 minutes when Duffy broke down the left only for his pull back to just evade David McMillan, who injured himself in the process.

Arsenal were struggling to break their opponents down at this stage although Rogers was called into action again on 63 minutes to save a Cédric free kick.

A minute later the ball broke to Smith Rowe at the edge of the box but he saw his effort blocked by Hoare.

The Gunners finally made it 3-1 in the 67th minute when Willock collected Balogun's lay off inside the box to squeeze a shot under Rogers.

Balogun would then add his name to the scoresheet 10 minutes from time after being slipped in on the left by Pépé before finishing sublimely past Rogers.

Dundalk would pull a goal back five minutes from the end when Hoare, a goalscorer in Sunday's Cup final at the Aviva, rose to head home from Flores' free-kick with five minutes to go.

Chambers would then have a goal ruled out late on for offside.

Arsenal, despite domestic pressure, march on in Europe. For Dundalk, the attention turns to building for 2021 when attempting to reclaim the league title from 2020 champions Shamrock Rovers will be their top priority.

Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Andy Boyle (Brian Gartland HT), Daniel Cleary; Sean Gannon (John Mountney 54), Chris Shields, Jordan Flores, Darragh Leahy; Patrick McEleney (Stefan Colovic 77), David McMillan (Daniel Kelly 54), Michael Duffy (Jamie Wynne 77). 

Arsenal: Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson; Cédric Soares, Calum Chambers, Pablo Marí, Shkodran Mustafi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Joe Willock (Miguel Azeez 83), Mohamed Elneny (Dani Ceballos 62), Emile Smith Rowe (Ben Cottrell 77); Eddie Nketiah (Folarin Balogun 62), Nicolas Pépé.

Referee: Ivan Bebek (Croatia).