Ireland U21s suffer massive blow to qualification dreams

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Republic of Ireland 0-2 Italy

Ireland’s European qualification hopes were dealt a massive blow on Friday evening when they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Italy.

Lorenzo Lucca capitalised on a slip from Crystal Palace defender Jake O’Brien to slot home the opener on the half-hour mark, while substitute Matteo Cancellieri wrapped up the win in the 90th minute.

Prior to Cancellieri’s strike, Ross Tierney almost equalised, but the visitors deserved their win as they looked comfortable on a nippy and breezy evening at Tallaght Stadium.

While Jim Crawford’s side made a bright start, Ireland’s Brian Maher was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.

He could do nothing to prevent Lucca’s strike. Nicolo Rovella’s cross should have been cleared by O’Brien, but he slipped as the ball came to him and it fell kindly to Lucca.

The Pisa forward swept the ball low inside the left-hand post from 10 yards.

Prior to the goal, Italy threatened through the ever-dangerous Emanuel Vignato and Samuele Ricci.



Ireland’s Conor Noss and Matteo Lovato of Italy

And the pair continued to take aim at the Irish goal as the Azzurri looked to build a more secure lead.

Ireland had a penalty shout waved away by Romanian referee Horatiu Fesnic when JJ Kayode fell under the challenge of Andrea Cambiaso on 68 minutes.

But it was the Italians through Rovella, Vignato and Lucca who looked the more likely to add to the scoresheet.

That is until the 82nd minute when one Bohemians ace, Dawson Devoy, delivered a free from the right, which was helped on into the area by Joel Bagan.

Bohs star Tierney raced onto the bouncing ball and tried to lift it over the advancing Marco Carnesecchi, but the ‘keeper got his arms up high enough to make the block.



Italian players celebrate their second goal

Cancellieri doubled the visitors’ lead on 90 minutes when he raced through on goal and beat Maher low to the Irish netminder’s right.

With Sweden winning against Bosnia earlier in the evening, the defeat leaves Crawford’s side six points adrift of Italy and seven behind the Swedes halfway through the campaign.

IRELAND: Brian Maher; Jake O’Brien, Mark McGuinness, Joel Bagen; Lee O’Connor, Gavin Kilkenny (Ross Tierney 76), Conor Coventry, Tyreik Wright; Will Smallbone (Dawson Devoy 76), Conor Noss (Feste Ebosele 56); Colm Whelan (JJ Kayode 56).

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