Daunting task awaits U-19s after Sweden inflict setback
Ireland will have to beat mini-group hosts Belgium tomorrow to secure a first U-19 Euros qualification since 2011.
After opening the four-nation group with an impressive 2-0 victory over Italy on Thursday, Tom Mohan's side were thumped 3-0 on Saturday by a Swedish side now firmly in the hunt to claim the one qualifying berth for the Georgia-hosted Finals.
While Sweden freshened their team by making six changes for their second game in three days, Ireland fielded the same line-up.
They were breached midway through the first-half by a break down the left, which led to Svante Ingelsson firing into the bottom corner.
Ireland were undone twice more in the second-half, both from set-pieces, to leave their destiny out of their hands.
Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher did well to keep out a curling free-kick seven minutes into the second-half, but his defence allowed Besard Sabovic smash the rebound home.
The rearguard were again caught napping with 17 minutes left as sub Alexander Isak, a €10m purchase for Borussia Dortmund this season, latched on to a free-kick and rattled the roof of the net.
"Sweden are a strong physical side with a lot of big players," said Mohan. "They were very direct and well organised, but our boys showed good spirit and kept trying to get back into it."
A win over group leaders Belgium will send Ireland to the Finals in July, unless Sweden overcome Italy in tomorrow's other concluding game in the pool.
IRELAND: Kelleher (Liverpool); O'Keefe (Birmingham), Masterson (Liverpool), Rice (West Ham Utd), Wilson (Manchester City); Levingston (Wolves), Molumby (Brighton); Elbouzedi (West Brom), Mandroiu (Brighton), Clarke (Shamrock Rovers); Hale (Birmingham City). Subs: McKenna (Wolves) for Levingston (61 mins), Carroll (Oxford Utd) for Mandroiu (36 mins), Kane (Drogheda Utd) for Clarke (85 mins).