King salutes U-21 heroes as Russians hit back to secure draw
Ireland U-21 2 Russia U-21 2
After coping with the artillery of a powerful Russian team, Noel King credited his charges for keeping their cool and earning a deserved draw.
Both nations came into this final game of the Marbella International tournament having lost narrowly lost to the USA last time and their desire to finish strongly was clear.
Ireland took a deserved fifth-minute lead into the break through squad newcomer Glen Rea, while Russia's abrasive approach saw them lose a player after just 23 minutes.
Although Ireland doubled the lead three minutes after the turnaround through Dylan Connolly, they were eventually pegged back by the sheer guile of the Russians. Still, the result is encouraging following two losses on the bounce against Germany and Norway.
"It's a performance the players can be proud of," noted King (above).
With Hull's Brian Lenihan slotting in at full-back, it didn't take long for Ireland to make their dominance count. Connolly's cross failed to get a connection from Rea in the air but the midfielder was first to react, sweeping home from six yards.
Rea then drew a cruel foul from Dmitri Efremov that resulted in a straight red card for the Russian. When Lee Desmond launched his pass out of defence three minutes after the restart, his former Shelbourne team-mate Connolly rounded the advancing 'keeper to score.
That was the trigger for Russia to finally string some passes together, and nippy sub Alexander scored on 62 minutes before Sheidaev Ramil equalised on 73 minutes.
Ireland U-21: D Rogers (Dumbarton); B Lenihan (Hull), T Hoban (Watford), S Griffin (Reading), L Desmond (St Patrick's Ath); A Browne (Preston), G Rea (Brighton); D Connolly (Shelbourne), K McEvoy (Tottenham), J Connors (Dag & Red); M Hamilton (Wigan). Subs: E Grimes (Leeds) for Rogers (46 mins), S Hoare (St Pat's) for Lenihan (68), K Sadlier (Brighton) for (69), W Hayhurst (Preston) for Connolly (80), E O'Connell (Celtic) for Desmond (85).