King rallies Ireland U-21s after defeat to stylish Turkey
IRELAND U-21 boss Noel King remains confident his charges can challenge for European Championship qualification, despite last night's slender defeat to Turkey in Manisa.
King's blossoming side failed to recover when they were caught cold for the only goal on 10 minutes.
Turkey right-back Kamil Corekci floated a routine ball down the centre of Ireland's defence which neither Gavin Gunning or his 'keeper Ian McLoughlin dealt with, allowing Sahin Aygunes to capitalise by controlling the pass, rounding the Ireland stopper and tucking home from an acute angle.
"It was a disappointing goal to concede because we're normally so tight defensively in those situations, but the lads fought to the end," said King. "I thought our spirit in searching for an equaliser was fantastic."
Ireland's lack of cutting edge in the final third could be attributed to the loss of key attackers. Arsenal's Rhys Murphy, who marked his debut with the winner last Thursday, was forced out on Monday with a hamstring strain, while Adam Barton, who was unwell before the game, was also ruled out.
Without the influential Barton, the Irish took time to utilise the intricacy of their midfield players Conor Clifford and Jeff Hendrick.
They showed signs of clicking on 20 minutes when Robbie Brady linked up with the duo to release Hendrick through the middle. Only a last-ditch tackle from Serdar Aziz denied him a certain shot at goal.
Still, Ireland were also prone to counter-attacks by their slick hosts and captain Rob Kiernan had to stand tall six yards out to snuff out a surge into the box by Alper Potuk.
A couple of times in the second half, Brady tormented the Turkish defence, but 'keeper Ozkan Karabulut denied him. It was only after Shane Duffy was thrust on in an unorthodox striker's role as a substitute with 15 minutes left that Karabulut looked rattled. Duffy used his power to meet Brady's cross 10 minutes from the finish, but his goal-bound header hacked off the line by Aziz.
With Italy beating Hungary 3-0 in the other group game last night, Ireland will require full points from upcoming back-to-back games with Liechtenstein to reassert their quest to quality. "It's still very much possible to qualify," said King. "We've only played two qualifiers and with improvement in certain areas, we're well in with a shout."
IRELAND -- McLoughlin (MK Dons); Oyebanjo (York City), Canavan (Scunthorpe), Kiernan (Wigan Ath), Gunning (Dundee Utd); Towell (Hibernian), Connolly (Bolton), Clifford (Chelsea), White (Leeds Utd); Hendrick (Derby Co); Brady (Hull City). Subs: Collins (Shrewsbury) for Hendrick (66), Duffy (Scunthorpe Utd) for Oyebanjo (75), Hourihane (Plymouth Argyle) for Towell (80).
TURKEY -- Karabulut; Corekçi, Aziz, Basdas, Nizam; Kaplan, Gulle, Demir, Uysal, Colak; Aygunes. Subs: Yilmaz for Kaplan (70), Uludag for Colak (85), Ozmen for Basdas (90+2).
ReF -- P Massoleni (Ita).