UEFA European U21 Championships Qualifier Report: Republic of Ireland 1-2 IcelandSun, Nov 15 2020
David Wilson reports from Tallaght Stadium
The Republic of Ireland suffered a sickening defeat in their quest to qualify for the European Under21 Championship for the first time ever as they went down 1-2 to Iceland on Sunday afternoon.
A bright opening half was undone as Ireland fell victim to the visitor’s incisive counterattacks.
Goals from the very impressive Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen and substitute Valdimar Thor Ingimundsson were the difference between the sides.
Jim Crawford knew that two wins from two games against Iceland and Luxembourg would see his side take place in a truncated European Under 21 Championships next year but today’s result means the major tournament now looks a long way away.
The Irish camp were once again disrupted as Jason Knight was called up to the senior setup and with Gavin Bazunu picking up a knock in training, Sligo Rovers shot stopper Ed McGinty was called in to deputise.
Iceland had beaten Ireland last October with a goal from Gudjohnsen and he again put the Icelandic side ahead in the 25th minute.
A pass from skipper Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson split the Irish defence and Gudjohnsen supplied a finish that would make his father, former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur, proud dinking the ball over the on-rushing McGinty, a sublime finish.
Ireland pressed early on and Michael Obafemi was slipped in down the left after just 11 minutes, but the Southampton frontman took a heavy touch, and the chance was gone.
For the rest of the half Ireland huffed and puffed without blowing the house down as Iceland were excellently drilled in their low defensive block, not allowing any space in behind.
Connor Ronan was at the heart of everything positive from the Irish play. He played a series of one-twos which nearly had Lee O’Connor in down the right, but the final ball was lacking.
The first half ended with a glistening Obafemi run before he set up Elbouzedi, but he could only fire straight at the goalkeeper.
The second half brought the introduction of the mercurial talent Troy Parrott. It only took the Millwall striker five minutes to glide in from the left and fire over.
Just before the hour mark Ronan got in down the left, he cut inside but again failed to test the keeper.
With just 15 minutes left Ireland finally got the luck that perhaps their first half performance deserved.
A cross from the right from O’Connor was met first by substitute Joshua Kayode and then Parrott but it was defender Robert Orri Borkelsson who diverted the ball into the bottom corner.
Iceland were still dangerous. Ice cool captain Thorsteinsson kept McGinty busy with a stunning long-range strike that needed to be batted away.
Then, in the 88th minute all hell broke loose. A thunderous Joshua Kayode challenge had the Iceland players, bench and staff up in arms baying for a red card but the referee showed a yellow.
In the melee afterwards, Nathan Collins was deemed to have raised his hands and was duly sent off, the assistant referee on the far side immediately pointed him out to the referee.
Ireland were now hanging on, but a piece of Parrott brilliance twice nearly had both himself and Danny Grant in down the left but the story of the day, there was no end product.
Iceland poured forward and were arguably the better side for much of the second half, they finally got their just rewards as substitute Ingimundsson tapped home from 5 yards after a pull-back from the right.
Ireland must go to Luxembourg midweek and win; they then must hope that results can go their way and they can sneak into the five best runners-up to qualify for next summer.
Iceland have now overtaken Ireland in second place as they play Armenia next, but that game has been called off due to COVID-19 concerns.
Republic of Ireland U21: Edward McGinty; Liam Scales, Lee O'Connor, Nathan Collins; Connor Ronan (Daniel Mandroiu 74), Conor Coventry (Thomas O'Connor 83), Jack Taylor; Anthony Scully (Troy Parrott 46), Michael Obafemi (Joshua Kayode 74), Zack Elbouzedi (Daniel Grant 83).
Subs not used: Troy Parrott, Thomas O'Connor, Danny McNamara, Mark McGuinness, Daniel Mandroiu, Brian Maher, Darragh Leahy, Joshua Kayode, Daniel Grant.
Booked: Joshua Kayode (88),
Sent off: Nathan Collins (89),
Iceland U21: Patrik Gunnarsson; Robert Ori Thorkelsson, Alfons Sampsted, Ari Leifsson, Hordur Ingi Gunnarsson; Willum Thor Willumsson, Alex Hauksson, Andri Fannar Baldursson (Thorir Johann Helgason 60); Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen (Valdimar Thor Ingimundsson 71), Kolbeinn Finnsson (Willum Thor Willumsson 71).
Subs not used: Kolbeinn Thordarsson, Isak Oli Olafsson, Elias Rafn Olafsson, Valdimar Thor Ingimundsson, Thorir Johann Helgason, Valgeir Lunddal Fridriksson, Bjarki Steinn Bjarkason, Isak Bergmann Johannesson , Brynjolfur Andersen Willumsson.
Booked: Kolbeinn Finnsson (20)
Referee: Juan Martinez Munuera (Spain)
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen (Iceland)