Sweden Under-21s 0 Ireland Under-21s 2
A FIRST appearance at an U-21 European Championships remains within reach for the Republic of Ireland as goals from Ross Tierney and Tyreik Wright put Sweden to the sword.
The Ireland U-21s were controlled, disciplined and fully deserving of a victory earned by clinically finishing the two standout opportunities of the entire match. This Irish team will believe anything is possible now.
What may frustrate Jim Crawford is in a campaign where Ireland have twice beaten group leaders Sweden, dropped points against Montenegro and Luxembourg mean qualification hopes remain vulnerable. They shouldn’t dwell on those disappointments now, surely.
The last ball that had been kicked by either of the teams was at Tallaght Stadium in October when Fulham’s Ollie O’Neill stuck a last-gasp winner and the Irish started in Boras as they finished in Dublin. Swedish left-back Eric Kahl found his way into the Portuguese referee’s book early on.
Tierney and Gavin Kilkenny combined for the lead goal which arrived early, before the snow briefly began to fall. Tierney’s flick released Kilkenny on the right. He showed quick feet to make space to cross and home captain Aiham Ousou’s wayward clearance fell to Tierney. The Motherwell midfielder’s close-range volley beat Samuel Brolin.
Derry City’s Brian Maher, who was the busiest goalkeeper in the first half, commanded his area when needed as the Swedes grew into the game. Amin Sarr forced him to dive to his left as Ireland were caught out by a direct ball.
Sarr and Patrik Walemark combined to release Armin Gigovic but Maher raced off his line to deny the midfielder.
Ireland’s compact shape denied the hosts space to play through and with a back three shielded expertly by the superb Conor Coventry, weren’t overly troubled in a second half. They were fortunate late on when Cardiff City’s Joel Bagan appeared to foul sub Isak Jansson in the area but referee Vitor Perreira was unmoved. It felt like an escape until Tyreik Wright slotted in at the second time of asking near the end. The on-loan Colchester winger latched onto Joshua Kayode’s flick on and wasn’t to be denied.
The win maintains Irish interest as the group reaches it’s climax. Three games in 12 days in June – at home to Bosnia and Montenegro before a trip to Italy – will decide whether Crawford’s team will earn their place at next year’s tournament, held jointly in Romania and Georgia.
SWEDEN – Brolin; Holm, Ousou, Tolinsson, Kahl; Finndell, Hussein (Gustavsson, 50), Gigovic (Jansson, 67); Walemark, Sarr, Abraham (Ondrejka, 67).
REP OF IRELAND – Maher; McEntee, O’Brien, McGuinness; O’Connor, Coventry, Kilkenny, Bagan; Tierney, Odubeko (Kayode, 70), O’Neill (Wright, 64).