Saturday 21 April 2018

O'Brien bags brace as first-half blitz crushes Faroes


John Fallon

IRELAND U-21 manager Noel King was prepared to excuse a few scares against the Faroes Islands at the Showgrounds as his side finally found their groove.

Aiden O'Brien bagged a brace during a frantic first half which produced all seven goals.

Victory was imperative to Ireland's prospects of earning a play-off for a place in the finals and another three points are a must from Tuesday's trip to Montenegro.

That top seeds and runaway group leaders Germany needed a late equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw in Podgorica last night demonstrates the task Ireland face there.

Yesterday's drama began on 17 minutes when bustling midfielder Samir Carruthers burst into the box to prod the ball past Teitur Gestsson – helped by a ricochet off the goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, O'Brien displayed neat footwork to slip by two defenders before angling a low shot in off the far post.

The dominance yielded a third for Ireland when the impressive Jack Grealish marked his first start with a 25th-minute goal by nodding home Anthony O'Connor's right-wing cross.

Gunner Zachariasen launched the comeback within a minute by firing a shot in off the post before the captain made it 3-2 from the spot following a foul by Shane Duffy.

That 37th-minute strike was forgotten about within three minutes as Anthony Forde curled an effort home from the edge of the box before O'Brien tapped in Duffy's 42nd-minute knockdown for number five.

The second half proved to be an anti-climax with Ireland comfortable in possession without replicating their sharpness up front.

Duffy saw a shot cleared off the line and Sean Murray's 30-yard drive forced a superb one-handed save from Gestsson.

King was glad to have his side back to winning ways after last month's one-point gain from two ties against Romania.

"The Faroes had scored against every team in the group but we might have won the game by six or seven," he said.

"There were some excellent individual displays. We'll go into Tuesday's game full of confidence, knowing a win is required to keep us in the hunt for a play-off."

IRELAND – McDermott (Sandnes Ulf); O'Connor (Torquay United), Duffy (Yeovil), Williams (Bristol City), McGinty (Sheffield Utd); Reilly (Birmingham City), Carruthers (MK Dons); Forde (Wolves), Murray (Watford), Grealish (Notts County); O'Brien (Millwall). Subs: Dunne (Wycombe Wanderers) for Williams (63), O'Sullivan for Murray (74), Hayhurst (Preston NE) for O'Brien (85)

FAROE ISLANDS – Gestsson; B Hansen, Nattestad, P Hansen, Joensen; Fredriksberg ( Ellingsgaard 56 ), Jensen (Petersen 46 ), Olsen, H Hansen, Sorensen; Zachariasen ( Kalso 84).

REF – A Aliyev (KAZ)

Irish Independent

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