Ireland Under-21s edge Croatia in thrilling friendly


Sinclair Armstrong was on target for Ireland as they defeated Croatia Credit: Conor Ryan (ETPhotos)

Ireland Under-21s secured a thrilling 3-2 victory against Croatia in Zagreb, overcoming a late comeback in the first of their summer friendlies.

Andrew Moran and Sinclair Armstrong put Ireland ahead with quick goals, followed by Aidomo Emakhu's early second-half strike.

Croatia's comeback began with Igor Matanovic scoring just after the hour mark, followed by a controversial penalty converted by Matija Frigan.

Ireland's head coach, Jim Crawford, praised his team's performance, saying, "It was a fantastic start and some of the passages of play were excellent. We go 3-0 up, we made a few changes and naturally when that happens you lose momentum. That just happens, but I’m delighted with the players' attitude and their commitment and I’m excited for the game against England."

The match began with Ireland showing early dominance. Armstrong's pace was a particular threat, nearly setting up Emakhu within the first few minutes. His efforts were soon rewarded as his shot led to Moran's opener. Minutes later, Armstrong scored from Sam Curtis's cross.

Croatia's Ljubicic missed a key chance to reduce the deficit in the first half, while Ireland continued to threaten. Emakhu's goal after the break seemed to secure a comfortable win for Ireland, but Croatia responded vigorously.

Matanovic's goal and Frigan's penalty injected suspense into the closing stages, yet Ireland held on for the win. Next up is England on Tuesday at  upcoming game against England U20 at 3pm Irish time.#

Croatia: Kolić, Katinić, Hodža, Bukvic, Ljubicic (C), Zvonarek, Kristian Sigur, Grozdanic, Crnac, Matanovic, Stoicek. Substitutions: Buljan, Cvijanovic, Zivkovic, Soldo, Biuk, Badelj, Skaricic, Frigan, Matkovic, Lusavec, Canjuga.

Ireland: Keeley, Curtis (O’Brien, 62’), Abankwah, O’Riordan, Garcia MacNulty, Roughan (Murphy, 62’), Hodge (C) (Healy, 46’), Lawal (Adeeko 75’), Moran, Emakhu (Kavanagh, 62’), Armstrong (Kenny, 46’)

Referee: Filip Dragašević (Croatia)