Grealish's late leveller leaves Ireland on cusp of elite phase
Kazakhstan 1 Ireland 1
Published 22/10/2011 | 05:00
JACK GREALISH scored a late equaliser against the mini-group hosts in Almaty yesterday to keep alive Ireland's qualification hopes.
But for the Aston Villa winger's intervention three minutes from the end of a game they dominated, Ireland would have been staring elimination in the face heading into Tuesday's final series of first-phase qualifiers.
Instead, they now need only to avoid defeat against the already-qualified Czech Republic to join them as one of the two qualifiers from the four-nation group. Victory would take them into the elite phase as group winners.
Kazakhstan raced into a 14th-minute lead when Ivan Antipov whipped a free-kick around the Ireland wall and into the far corner.
Stung by that setback, Ireland took the game to their hosts, and Millwall's Conor Wilkinson missed a great chance to equalise.
Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Byrne also squandered decent chances before goalkeeper Shane Fagan kept Ireland in the contest by foiling Adil Belgabayev.
Back came Ireland and, after Byrne and substitute Gary O'Neill had both gone close, they equalised.
Dylan McGlade went on a darting run before teeing up Grealish on the edge of the box and he side-stepped his marker before burying a shot into the bottom corner.
"We had 22 attempts on goal against their six, which sums the game up really," said manager John Morling.
"The players showed great character to keep playing until the final whistle and a moment of brilliance by Jack Grealish saved us in the end."
IRELAND U-17 -- S Fagan (Coventry City); S Long (Cherry Orchard), K McFadden (Norwich City), R O'Reilly (Stoke City), S Coyne (Cherry Orchard); T Mulroney (Crumlin United), J Leddy (Ipswich Town), D Hayes (Derby County); S Byrne (Manchester United), C Wilkinson (Millwall), J Grealish (Aston Villa). Subs: D McGlade (Middlesbrough) for Wilkinson (h-t), G O'Neill (Wolves) for Hayes (67).