Saturday 20 January 2018

Ireland U21s make it three wins from three to top group

Alan Browne celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team-mate Dylan Connolly. / SPORTSFILE
Alan Browne celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team-mate Dylan Connolly. / SPORTSFILE

The Republic of Ireland U21 side top their UEFA U21 Championships Qualifying Round group after a comprehensive 3-0 win over Lithuania at the RSC tonight.

Noel King's side have won all three of their opening fixtures in Group 2 and now face Italy, who has two wins from as many games, in Vicenza on Tuesday.

Ireland started well with Conor Wilkinson threatening an opener in the fourth minute with a clever shot on the turn that landed on the roof of the visiting side's net.

Three minutes later Wilkinson had a goal bound effort blocked after clever link-up play involving Sean Kavanagh and Josh Cullen.

In the ninth minute great work by Sean Kavanagh saw the wide-man fire in a low cross that a defender dramatically cleared before Wilkinson could connect.

Wilkinson then turned provider for Kavanagh in the 24th minute with a cross-field ball but the winger's shot on the slide flew across goal.

Ireland went ahead in the 27th minute when Callum O'Dowda volleyed Ireland ahead from a Cullen cross as the Oxford United player scored his first goal for Ireland.

Three minutes later Ireland went two up when Wilkinson carved out a shooting opportunity and his low strike from outside the box slipped through the keeper's grasp and into the net.

After the break Ireland maintained their control and almost added a third in the 71st minute when O'Dowda's cross almost found Dylan Connolly but Lukas Čerkauskas was well placed to head over for a corner.

From Kavanagh's resulting flag-kick Glen Rea made a decent connection but his header struck an upright.

The third goal came in the 77th minute whenAlan Browne scored after a clever turn and finish following a low cross by Kavanagh.

"This was a pleasing performance and its excellent to get another clean sheet. People may have been looking to Italy but we weren't. We were very focused on this game," said King afterwards.

"There were lots of good performances but the collective effort was excellent and we are starting to play with confidence. It's early days yet but we've got the start we wanted in the group."

IRELAND: Daniel Rogers, Sean Long, Jack Connors, Darragh Lenihan, Glen Rea (Shane Griffin 79), Alan Browne (Henry Charsley 82), Callum O’Dowda, Josh Cullen, Conor Wilkinson (Dylan Connolly 65), Jack Byrne, Sean Kavanagh.

LITHUANIA: Edvinas Gertmonas, Julius Aleksandravičius, Lukas Artimavičius, Lukas Čerkauskas, Tomas Dombrauskis (Rokas Krušnauskas 82), Rokas Stanulevičius (Karolis Šilkaitis 46), Simonas Stankevičius, Skirmantas Rakauskas (Daniel Romanovskij 46), Sigitas Urbys, Aurimas Tručinskas, Donatas Šėgžda

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