Browne caps easy win for King's men
Ireland U-21 3 Lithuania U-21 0
Ireland's U-21s have hit the heady heights of UEFA group leaders after seeing off a woeful Lithuania side last night in front of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane.
First half strikes from Callum O'Dowda and Conor Wilkinson at the Waterford RSC were added to by a classy Alan Browne finish near the end.
"We dominated the match and then had a lull of about 10 or 15 minutes in the second half," said manager Noel King afterwards.
"But the momentum and confidence which comes from winning their first three games in a row is a major advantage.
"There's a long way to go in the campaign. Irish teams are notorious for dropping points against opposition such as this, so they deserve plenty of credit."
West Ham playmaker Josh Cullen dissected the visiting defence on 27 minutes for the breakthrough goal.
The Hammers first-teamer displayed great awareness and execution to float a pass into the path of the onrushing O'Dowda who coolly guided the ball beyond Edvinas Gertmonas with a deft volley.
Two minutes later and the contest was all but ended by Ireland's second goal. There seemed to be little danger when Wilkinson received a pass into feet from Darragh Lenihan 25 yards out. But, after a couple of twists, his shot completely caught the goalkeeper unawares and slipped under his hands.
Byrne might have added a third goal approaching the interval yet his volley blazed over and the jittery Gertmonas almost allowed Sean Kavanagh's free-kick drop into the net.
Comfortable in possession, Ireland were seldom troubled in the second half. Glen Rea nearly made it three with 20 minutes left before Browne was at his clinical best in the 77th minute.
Kavanagh was once again to the fore, crossing from the left for the Preston midfielder to flick the ball over his head and volley into the net. Now the mighty Italy await Ireland in their fourth qualifier on Tuesday in Vicenza, a altogether different proposition to what they have faced so far.
IRELAND - D Rogers (Falkirk); S Long (Reading), G Rea (Southend Utd), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), J Connors (Dagenham); A Browne (Preston NE), J Byrne (SC Cambuur), J Cullen (West Ham Utd); C O'Dowda (Oxford Utd), C Wilkinson (Barnsley), S Kavanagh (Fulham).
Subs: D Connolly (Ipswich Town) for Wilkinson (66), S Griffin (Reading) for Rea (79), H Charsley (Everton) for Brown (81).
LITHUANIA - E Gertmonas; A Trucinkas, L Artimavicius, J ALeksandravicius, L Cerkaukas; T Dombrauskis; D Segzda, R Stanulevicius, S Rakauskas, S Urbys; S Stankevicious. Subs: D Romanovskij for Rakauskas, K Silkaitus for Stanulevicius (both 46), R Krusnauskas for Dombrauskis (81).
Ref - J Casanova (SMR)