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Cullen steers Ireland past Andorran banana skin


Josh Cullen gave an impressive debut performance

Josh Cullen gave an impressive debut performance

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Josh Cullen gave an impressive debut performance

Josh Cullen's dream couple of weeks continued as he scored on his competitive U-21 debut in Andorra.

The 19-year-old midfielder made his Premier League debut in West Ham's memorable 3-0 win at Anfield last month and signed a new Upton Park contract on transfer deadline day.

In a potentially tricky second tie of their Euro qualifying campaign, Ireland struck twice early on.

Influential skipper Tommie Hoban led the way by forcing home a well-worked corner after 13 minutes, and Cullen (left) got the second eight minutes later.

Although Andorra had recorded their first U-21 victory in June against Lithuania, they ended this contest without having mustered an effort on target and with only 10 men after Marc Ferre picked up his second yellow card late on.

"It was a professional job by our players to beat a very well-organised Andorran side," said Ireland boss Noel King.

"We had struggled to break them down in the home game in March, when we won 1-0, but this was a better all-round display."

The Irish now face Lithuania home and away in October and November, either side of a trip to top seeds Italy, who will provide the real test for the latest group hoping to force their way into Martin O'Neill's thoughts.

Debut competitive starts for Cullen and Reece Crego-Cox injected more attacking flair into the Ireland side and they bossed the first half. Their bright opening generated to a barrage of chances, with Hoban netting from the third corner in quick succession.

When Cullen whipped in the delivery from the left, the Watford defender managed to lose his marker and steer the ball with his chest into the top corner.

Andorra barely had time to recover from that setback when they conceded again.

Cullen showed excellent drive to latch on to a left-wing cross, dribble around Max Llovera before firing left-footed into the roof of the net.

Alan Browne fashioned a couple of openings, but Ireland might have gone into the interval with less of an advantage had Jordi Alaez not scuffed his shot from eight yards out.

With Browne and Cullen continuing to dominate midfield, Ireland were much the better side.

Andorra's tactics, similar to the first fixture, descended into persistent fouling in the second half as the game drifted away from them. Five of their players were booked and talisman Ferre's red card capped an awful day for the hosts.

IRELAND - D Rogers (Falkirk); B Lenihan (Hull City), T Hoban (Watford), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), J Connors (Dagenham); A Browne (Preston NE), G Rea (Southend); R Crego-Cox (QPR), J Cullen (West Ham), S Kavanagh (Fulham); C O'Dowda (Oxford Utd). Subs: S Maguire (Dundalk) for Cox, D Connolly (Ipswich Town) for O'Dowda (both 85 mins), S Long (Reading) for Rea (87).

Ref - I Peljto (BHZ)

Irish Independent