04.02.2010 at 16:00 Municipal Stadium, Albufeira
0 - 0
Ireland Under 16
Albufeira 4 Nations Tournament / TS-match
Albufeira 4 Nations Under-16 Tournament
Republic of Ireland 0 Italy 0
The Republic of Ireland Under-16s were held to a scoreless draw by a resolute Italian side on the opening day of the Albufeira 4 Nations Under-16 Tournament in Portugal.
In a game of few chances, Ireland asserted themselves well in their toughest assignment of the season and were rarely threatened by an Azzurri side featuring players from a host of Serie A clubs.
The first half saw Ireland create the better of the chances and even in the second period, when Italy improved as an attacking force, the Irish stood firm and threw their bodies on the line to preserve a respectable outcome.
Despite having to repel Italy during the opening ten minutes, the young Boys in Green took a foothold on the game thereafter and could have led by the break.
On 11 minutes, the Italians appealed for a handball against Jamie Smith on the halfway line but when the Dutch referee correctly ignored their claims, Ireland midfielder Kealon Dillon moved into space and unleashed a shot from 25 yards which Italian goalkeeper Ricci Matteo had to turn away for a corner.
Ireland's leading scorer Michael Drennan looked certain to break free on goal on 25 minutes but for a last-ditch tackle by Maccarone Federico.
Dillon, of Belvedere YC, got another shot on target after an half an hour - this time from a curling free-kick - but once more Matteo displayed good handling.
Italy began the second half the brighter and conjured their best opening five minutes in when striker Verre Valerio's got his head to a left-wing corner and although it glanced off Carel Tiofack, Ireland goalkeeper Joe Coll adjusted his body brilliantly to tip the ball onto the crossbar.
As the rain pelted down, the game became more disjointed, making concentration from the Irish players a must.
With Ireland's defence looking solid, the Italians were working off scraps and didn't create much as the game petered out.
The closest either of sides came to nicking it in the latter stages was a header from Irish substitute Philip Roberts when Dillon whipped in a cross but the Norwich City striker couldn't apply the accuracy and his effort sailed over.
Republic of Ireland manager John Morling saluted his players for a workmanlike performance.
He said: "From a defensive perspective, we were excellent and afforded Italy very little in terms of scoring chances.
"I felt we kept the ball well, perhaps should have done better with it in the second half, but we more than held our own at this level.
"We've played Italy and Czech Republic since November - two of what I'd describe as Grade One nations - and we've deservedly been unbeaten against them over three matches."
In the other game played on Thursday at the Albufeira 4 Nations Under-16 Tournament, the Netherlands and Portugal drew 1-1. Ireland are next in action on Saturday against Portugal at the Nora Stadium, Ferreiras (11.00 hrs).
REP OF IRELAND: Joseph Coll (Glenea Utd); Eoin Hyland (Belvedere), Steven Smith (Arsenal), Jamie Smith (Cherry Orchard), Bradley Garmston (West Bromwich Albion); Ken McEvoy (Villa, Waterford), Kealan Dillon (Belvedere), Carel TioFack (Ballincollig), Luke Gallagher (Cherry Orchard), Michael Hehir-Drennan (Evergreen); Philip Roberts (Norwich City).
Substitutes: James Murphy (Reading) for For Tiofack (59 mins), Brandon Miele (Cherry Orchard) for Roberts (72 mins)
ITALY: Matteo; Tarcisio, Federico, Flavio, Marco; Lorenzo, Simone, Valerio, Stefano; Giuseppe, Daniele
Tournament Fixtures and Results:
Thursday February 4
Netherlands 1-1 Portugal - Nora Stadium, Ferreiras (13.00 hrs)
Italy 0-0 Republic of Ireland - Municipal Stadium, Albufeira (16.00 hrs)
Saturday February 6
Portugal v Republic of Ireland - Nora Stadium, Ferreiras (11.00 hrs)
Netherlands v Italy - Nora Stadium, Ferreiras (15.00 hrs)
Monday February 8
Portugal v Italy - Nora Stadium, Ferreiras (13.00 hrs)
|Netherlands v Republic of Ireland - Municipal Stadium, Albufeira (16.00 hrs).