08.09.2015 at 15:00 Estadi Comunal
Callum O Dowda
Ireland U21s maintain 100 per cent record in Group 2
Ireland U21’s took their points tally to six out of six after beating Andorra in their UEFA U21 Championships Qualifying Round Group 2 clash at Estadi Comunal this evening
First half goals from Tommie Hoban and Josh Cullen were enough to hand Noel King’s side the three points in a match that was dominated by Ireland.
The opening stages of the game saw Ireland dominate possession and create plenty of chances. With set-pieces from Sean Kavanagh and Cullen causing all sorts of problems for Andorra’s defence, Hoban broke the deadlock in the 13th minute with a move straight off the training ground when he connected with Cullen’s corner to leave Silverio with no chance of saving.
More good work from Jack Connors and Kavanagh on Ireland’s left once again bore fruit for King’s side when Kavanagh excellently set up Cullen, who burst in to the box and fired home to give his side a two goal lead.
Danny Rogers was rarely troubled in the Irish goal but on 28 minutes Jordi Alaez had an opportunity to pull one back. The ball fell to Alaez just 10 yards out but the Andorran forward failed to connect and scuffed his shot wide of Rogers’ goal. This proved to be Andorra’s only real chance of scoring on the night.
Silverio rose well to gather another well delivered corner from Cullen as the half-time whistle blew to leave Ireland with a comfortable 2-0 lead at the break.
Home coach Justo Ruiz made a change at half-time, introducing Nazzaro for Bueno to try to give his side a better foothold in midfield. As the second half wore on Ireland found their possession game more difficult to maintain due to the increased physicality of the Andorrans. King’s side reacted well to the challenge and gave away very little in an intensified battle.
With Andorra penned back for extended periods, Ireland almost extended their lead when Brian Lenihan and Callum O’Dowda combined well down the right. Grego-Cox rose well to meet Lenihan’s cross but headed just wide of Silverio’s post. O’Dowda and Reece Grego-Cox both had efforts scrambled away shortly afterwards as Ireland turned the screw once again.
Ireland may have had a shout for a penalty on 76 minutes but the referee brandished a yellow card to Connors and awarded a free-kick to Andorra. On 88 minutes Marc Ferré was dismissed for a second yellow card offence. Andorra threatened in the dying minutes as Rubio fired a good delivery across the Irish penalty are however their defence stood strong and referee Irvan Peljto blew the final whistle to give the visitors a well-deserved victory away from home.
Speaking after the game, Noel King expressed his delight with his side’s performance so far in the qualification campaign. “Six points from six is a great start for us. We would have been expected to beat Andorra but it doesn’t always work like that in football so I’m very pleased with the result this evening.
“I think there was a little bit of intimidation going on in the second half. I have huge respect for Andorra, with such a small population they make things difficult for everyone they play and I give them full marks for that. I thought our players held their discipline really well and saw the game out.”
King’s side face Lithuania at home and Italy away in October in Group 2 of the UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifiers.
“Lithuania is the first game we will look at. We will target a win for that game. They haven’t had a great start and we’ve done okay but it’s a whole new game. We don’t know who we will have available but certainly another win would be great as it’s a long time since we’ve had three wins from three in competitive fixtures so that’s what we’re looking to do”
King will have much to ponder ahead of the October double header with Reece Grego-Cox and Josh Cullen both making impressive competitive debuts this week.
“Josh Cullen from West Ham and Reece Grego-Cox from QPR have come in and done very well. Both are different types of player and they’ve certainly brought a freshness to the squad. I think they’ve brought us hope and maybe even a little bit more expectation for the future. The numbers have grown and it’s now going to be very difficult to name squads let alone my starting eleven.”
Andorra: Silverio, Rubio, LLovera, Rebés, Bové, Bueno (Nazzaro 45), Ferré, Reyes (Villagrasa 83), Matos (Fernendes 71), Aláez, A.Sánchez.
Subs not used: Pires, Viladot, Bové, Teixeira.
Ireland: Rogers, B.Lenihan, D.Lenihan, Hoban, Connors, Rea (Long 87), Cullen, Browne, Grego-Cox (Maguire 85), O’Dowda (Connolly 85), Kavanagh.
Subs not used: Grimes, Griffin, Wilkinson, Goodwin.