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Sunday 17 December 2017

Ireland U21s' Euros dream in tatters after loss to Slovenia

Slovenia U21 3 1 Ireland U21

Glen Rea. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Glen Rea. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

IRELAND’S miserable run at U-21 level continued this evening in Koper when Slovenia inflicted a fourth straight defeat on Noel King’s side.

The Ireland manager had admitted last week at least four points were required from the double-header against Italy and Slovenia to rescue their Euro hopes so a return of zero obliterates their prospects with three qualifiers still to play.

Ireland were caught napping for the opener on 14 minutes when Slovenia skipper and full left Luka Krajnc was allowed peel off Conor Wilkinson from Miha Zajc’s  corner and tap in at the back post.

Sean Maguire, on as substitute for the injured Wilkinson before the break, had Ireland’s best chance of equalising but he couldn’t get enough power on his header from Sean Long’s right-wing cross.

Ten minutes after the restart, Reading full-back Long was adjudged to have fouled Ziga Kastrevec inside the box, allowing Gregor Bajde to convert the resultant penalty low into the bottom left corner despite Ian Lawlor guessing correctly.

Although Callum O’Dowda, Ireland’s best player on the night, reduced the arrears on 65 minutes after his shot squirmed through the hands of goalkeeper Grega Sorcan, the two-goal cushion was restored when Zajc dipped his free-kick over the wall and beyond Lawlor.

IRELAND: I Lawlor (Manchester City); S Long (Reading), S Hoare (St Patrick’s Ath), N Keown (Reading), S Griffin (Reading); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), C Dimaio (Chesterfield); C O’Dowda (Oxford United), J Byrne (SC Cambuur), J Connors (Dagenham); C Wilkinson (Portsmouth).

Subs: S Maguire (Cork City) for Wilkinson (39 mins), D Connolly (Bray Wanderers) for Griffin (61 mins), J Barrett (Reading) for O’Dowda (75 mins).

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