Wednesday 17 January 2018

Clinical Italy leave Ireland's campaign on a knife-edge

Ireland U-17 0 Italy U-17 2

Darragh Leahy looks dejected after Ireland's loss to Italy at the Beroe Stadium in Bulgaria yesterday
Darragh Leahy looks dejected after Ireland's loss to Italy at the Beroe Stadium in Bulgaria yesterday
Ireland's Darragh Leahy in action against Filippo Melegoni of Italy
Italy's Gianluca Scamacca in action against Jonathan Lunney of Ireland

Paul Buttner

Italy gave Ireland a lesson in how to finish at the Beroe Stadium in Bulgaria yesterday to leave Irish hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA U-17 Championship in the balance.

England's 1-1 draw with Holland means that a 2-0 win against the English on Wednesday would put Ireland through to the quarter-finals.

'It's good to be going into the last game with it all to play for. We're still in the shake up. If we get a 2-0 win that will put us through regardless of the result in the other game," manager Tom Mohan said.

"We'll give it a big effort. I can't fault the effort and commitment of the players. Some could barely stand at the end.

"The spirit is there and we've got to build our preparation around that spirit and determination. There will be boys chomping at the bit to play."

A positive start for Ireland counted for nothing as Italy took the lead on 10 minutes.


Fine build-up play from Gianluca Scamacca and Patrick Cutrone set up Simone Lo Faso, who beat Caoimhin Kelleher with a rising right-foot shot from inside the area.

Ireland worked hard to get back into it without seriously threatening before half-time.

They started the second half well with Jamie Aherne and substitute Josh Barrett having chances before Italy punished sloppy defending to score a second goal on 56 minutes.

A miscued clearance from Corey O'Keeffe was latched onto by Lo Faso, who teed up substitute Simone Mazzocchi, whose shot found the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

"We were just done by two errors. They were clinical," said Mohan. "After the first 15 minutes, we got a grip on the game and were the dominant team. We got into great positions out wide to get balls into the box.

"But when they went in, players just didn't pick up the right positions in the box. It was just a lack of conviction in the final third of the pitch.

"The errors we made were punished. You have to give Italy credit for that. Their front players were clinical with their finishing. That was the difference between the sides.

"We just have to pick ourselves up and get ready for Wednesday."

Republic of Ireland - Kelleher (Ringmahon Rangers); O'Keeffe (Birmingham), Masterson (Liverpool), Leahy (Coventry), Lunney (Preston); Agyei-Tabi (Arsenal), Livingston (Wolves); Ronan (Wolves); Elbouzedi (West Brom), Aherne (Lucan United), Clarke (St Kevin's). Subs: Scully (West Ham) for Clarke (h-t), Barrett (Reading) for Elbouzedi (49), Wade-Slater (St Kevin's) for Aherne (71).

Italy - Donnarumma; Scalera, Mattioli, Llamas, Giraudo; Melegoni, El Hilail, Locatelli, Lo Faso (Degl'Innocenti, 70); Cutrone (Mataresse, 80+1), Scamacca (Mazzocchi, 53).

Ref - Roi Reinshreiber (Israel)

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