Ireland 1-0 Italy

Robbie Brady headed Ireland into the last 16 of Euro 2016 as Ireland sensationally beat Italy 1-0 at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille.

The Italians sat back and absorbed tremendous pressure throughout but almost broke Irish hearts as Lorenzo Insigne’s curling effort cannoned off the foot of the post in the 77th minute.

But then, with just six minutes remaining on the clock, Brady stole into the Italian box to guide a perfect Wes Hoolahan ball into the back of the net to send Ireland through to take on hosts France in Lyon.

The stadium rocked in the minutes before kick-off as the majority Ireland support inside the stadium got behind the team before a ball was kicked.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill had promised energy on the pitch and it was matched on the terraces as the fervent fans cheered on the manager’s much-changed side.

But perhaps there was a nervous energy on the pitch as Ireland put themselves under early pressure after Darren Randolph kicked a simple back-pass out to touch, which led to two Italy corners that whipped across the box but without threatening the goal.

The first chance of the game arrived in the ninth minute when a long ball was helped on by Daryl Murphy, who did well to beat Leonardo Bonucci in the air.

Jeff Hendrick burst from midfield to latch onto the bouncing ball and did well to hold off the advances of the Italian midfielder Alessandri Florenzi.

The Ireland midfielder took a touch inside and let fly with his left foot but the ball just sailed past the wrong side of the left upright.

Italy then appeared happy to sit back, just looking for the odd long ball out of defence, but Ireland kept a real presence in the opposing half, especially down the left flank, eventually winning a corner in the 21st minute.

Brady’s first chance to deliver a set-piece into the box found the head of Murphy who had lost his marker and the Ipswich striker managed to direct his header on target.

Salvatore Sirgiu was equal to the task, however, and tipped the ball over the bar.

Italy’s only foray into the Ireland half was a long hopeful ball over the top, which Shane Duffy looked like he had under control. But instead of clipping the ball into touch the Derry man slammed a mis-placed back-pass to Randolph, resulting in a corner. Luckily, James McCarthy was first to the ball arriving into the box and Ireland cleared.

But again, as the half-hour mark approached, Ireland put huge pressure on the final third as McCarthy dispossessed Stefano Sturaro in midfield, before sending Brady through the middle. The Norwich man sent McClean down the left, resulting in another corner.

More excellent Irish pressure saw Italy struggled to clear and Shane Long was almost put in on goal by Duffy’s poor touch but some quick thinking by De Sciglio cleared the ball for another corner.

Duffy pulled away to the back post as the ball was whipped in from the right flank after the short corner, but he could not direct the ball in at the tight angle.

Italy again appeared quite content to sit back and absorb the pressure, showing no real cohesion in midfield. And as another attempt to push Ireland back into their own half failed, James McClean was sent off down the left flank and he had the Italian defenders back-peddling before Andrea Barzagli eventually took him out.

Five minutes before half-time and Ireland still pushed for an opening goal and Seamus Coleman joined in with the attack after a clever cross-field ball switched the play allowing the captain to take the ball iniside the defender.

Coleman decided against clipping the ball into the mix but rather cut the ball back to Brady on the edge of the box. The Ireland midfielder eventually ran into a wall of blue and Italy cleared.

It took Italy 43 minutes to really test the Ireland rearguard after they were awarded a soft free-kick for a McCarthy foul 40 yards out.

The ball was played in from the left to the feet of the lively Ciro Immobile, who turned and smashed a fine effort with his left foot goalwards, but the ball flew past the post. The diving Randolph looked as though he may have had the shot covered.

But the first-half’s major talking point came a minute later as McClean again ran at the Italy defence.

Federico Bernardeschi appeared to get on the wrong side of the Irish attacker and certainly made contact with McClean’s back and hip to send the West Brom man sprawling.

The referee waved away the appeals but the replay on the big screen allowed the majority Irish support to let Mr Hategan know what they thought of his decision.


A chorus of boos followed the official down the tunnel for the half-time break.

A better start to the second half by the group winners saw Antonio Conte’s side almost break the deadlock in the 53rd minute.

Mattia De Sciglio found himself in an advanced position down the left and he whipped in a great ball, which Simone Zaza caught beautifully on the volley but the ball just flew over the bar.

But Ireland kept going, and again played the game in their opponents’ half resulting in two excellent chances of breaking the deadlock.

In the 57th minute, Murphy muscled his way down the left before drilling the ball across the face of the goal. Sirigu chose to parry the ball and then a poor Italian clearance rolled straight to the incoming Coleman but his first-time effort was blocked.

A minute later, McCarthy lifted a clever ball over the top to Long but the Southampton striker was off balance as he turned and went down under the challenge. The referee had a good look at it but again waved play on; probably the right decision on this occasion.

In the 62nd minute, Hendrick cut inside and blasted over, when he had better options inside and then in the 74th minute, substitute Aiden McGeady did something similar but had possibly run out of options as he ran across the edge of the box.

For all Ireland’s pressure, there was little to trouble the Italian keeper and O’Neill decided it was time to call for playmaker Hoolahan.

But it was another substitute who almost grabbed the opening goal of this game and it was in the Azzurri blue as Lorenzo Insigne ran at the retreating Irish defence before curling the ball past the diving Randolph. But the base of the post prevented Italy taking the lead.

Into the last ten minutes and Ireland were running out of time but then with just seven minutes remaining, some pressure on the Italian defence went unpunished by the referee. And suddenly Hoolahan was through on goal with just the keeper to beat.

The stadium stood silent for just a split second, but that goal-celebrating roar never arrived as a tentative effort was first saved, then cleared by Sirigu.

It arrived less than 60 seconds later.

Ireland moved the ball out to the left as McGeady found Hoolahan in space.

The former Shelbourne midfielder chose not to run with the ball but rather launch it over the retreating Italian defence.

Brady arrived into the box like the local TGV, never breaking stride, nor concentration to guide the ball past Sirigu, who had no answer for the powerful header.

The noise was defeaning as the Irish crowd celebrated behind the goal as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

They celebrated all around the stadium, in fact, as the huge Irish contingent roared the team through the remaining minutes as Ireland entered the knock-out phase of this competition for the first time.

Italy: Salvatore Sirigu; Angelo Ogbonna, Leonardo Bonucci (capt), Andrea Barzagli; Thiago Motta, Stefano Sturaro, Alessandro Florenzi; Federico Bernardeschi (Matteo Darmian 60), Mattia De Sciglio (Stephan El Shaarawy 82); Ciro Immobile (Lorenzo Insigne 69), Simone Zaza.

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (capt), Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward; Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy (Wes Hoolahan 77), James McClean; Shane Long (Stephen Quinn 90), Daryl Murphy (Aiden McGeady 70).

Referee: Ovidiu Hategan (Romania).

The stadium rocked in the minutes before kick-off as the majority Ireland support inside the stadium got behind the team before a ball was kicked.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill had promised energy on the pitch and it was matched on the terraces as the fervent fans cheered on the manager’s much-changed side.

But perhaps there was a nervous energy on the pitch as Ireland put themselves under early pressure after Darren Randolph kicked a simple back-pass out to touch, which led to two Italy corners that whipped across the box but without threatening the goal.

The first chance of the game arrived in the ninth minute when a long ball was helped on by Daryl Murphy, who did well to beat Leonardo Bonucci in the air.

Jeff Hendrick burst from midfield to latch onto the bouncing ball and did well to hold off the advances of the Italian midfielder Alessandri Florenzi.

The Ireland midfielder took a touch inside and let fly with his left foot but the ball just sailed past the wrong side of the left upright.

Italy then appeared happy to sit back, just looking for the odd long ball out of defence, but Ireland kept a real presence in the opposing half, especially down the left flank, eventually winning a corner in the 21st minute.

Brady’s first chance to deliver a set-piece into the box found the head of Murphy who had lost his marker and the Ipswich striker managed to direct his header on target.

Salvatore Sirgiu was equal to the task, however, and tipped the ball over the bar.

Italy’s only foray into the Ireland half was a long hopeful ball over the top, which Shane Duffy looked like he had under control.

But instead of clipping the ball into touch the Derry man slammed a mis-placed back-pass to Randolph, resulting in a corner. Luckily, James McCarthy was first to the ball arriving into the box and Ireland cleared.

But again, as the half-hour mark approached, Ireland put huge pressure on the final third as McCarthy dispossessed Stefano Sturaro in midfield, before sending Brady through the middle. The Norwich man sent McClean down the left, resulting in another corner.

More excellent Irish pressure saw Italy struggled to clear and Shane Long was almost put in on goal by Duffy’s poor touch but some quick thinking by De Sciglio cleared the ball for another corner.

Duffy pulled away to the back post as the ball was whipped in from the right flank after the short corner, but he could not direct the ball in at the tight angle.

Italy again appeared quite content to sit back and absorb the pressure, showing no real cohesion in midfield. And as another attempt to push Ireland back into their own half failed, James McClean was sent off down the left flank and he had the Italian defenders back-peddling before Andrea Barzagli eventually took him out.

Five minutes before half-time and Ireland still pushed for an opening goal and Seamus Coleman joined in with the attack after a clever cross-field ball switched the play allowing the captain to take the ball iniside the defender.

Coleman decided against clipping the ball into the mix but rather cut the ball back to Brady on the edge of the box. The Ireland midfielder eventually ran into a wall of blue and Italy cleared.

It took Italy 43 minutes to really test the Ireland rearguard after they were awarded a soft free-kick for a McCarthy foul 40 yards out.

The ball was played in from the left to the feet of the lively Ciro Immobile, who turned and smashed a fine effort with his left foot goalwards, but the ball flew past the post. The diving Randolph looked as though he may have had the shot covered.

But the first half’s major talking point came a minute later as McClean again ran at the Italy defence.

Federico Bernardeschi appeared to get on the wrong side of the Irish attacker and certainly made contact with McClean’s back and hip to send the West Brom man sprawling.

The referee waved away the appeals but the replay on the big screen allowed the majority Irish support to let Mr Hategan know what they thought of his decision. A chorus of boos followed the official down the tunnel for the half-time break.

A better start to the second half by the group winners saw Antonio Conte’s side almost break the deadlock in the 53rd minute.

Mattia De Sciglio found himself in an advanced position down the left and he whipped in a great ball, which Simone Zaza caught beautifully on the volley but the ball just flew over the bar.

But Ireland kept going, and again played the game in their opponents’ half resulting in two excellent chances of breaking the deadlock.

In the 57th minute, Murphy muscled his way down the left before drilling the ball across the face of the goal. Sirigu chose to parry the ball and then a poor Italian clearance rolled straight to the incoming Coleman but his first-time effort was blocked.

A minute later, McCarthy lifted a clever ball over the top to Long but the Southampton striker was off balance as he turned and went down under the challenge. The referee had a good look at it but again waved play on; probably the right decision on this occasion.

In the 62nd minute, Hendrick cut inside and blasted over, when he had better options inside and then in the 74th minute, substitute Aiden McGeady did something similar but had possibly run out of options as he ran across the edge of the box.

For all Ireland’s pressure, there was little to trouble the Italian keeper and O’Neill decided it was time to call for playmaker Hoolahan.

But it was another substitute who almost grabbed the opening goal of this game and it was in the Azzurri blue as Lorenzo Insigne ran at the retreating Irish defence before curling the ball past the diving Randolph. But the base of the post prevented Italy taking the lead.

Into the last ten minutes and Ireland were running out of time but then with just seven minutes remaining, some pressure on the Italian defence went unpunished by the referee. And suddenly Hoolahan was through on goal with just the keeper to beat.

The stadium stood silent for just a split second, but that goal-celebrating roar never arrived as a tentative effort was first saved, then cleared by Sirigu.

It arrived less than 60 seconds later. Ireland moved the ball out to the left as McGeady found Hoolahan in space.

The former Shelbourne midfielder chose not to run with the ball but rather launch it over the retreating Italian defence.

Brady arrived into the box like the local TGV, never breaking stride, nor concentration to guide the ball past Sirigu, who had no answer for the powerful header.

The noise was deafening as the Irish crowd celebrated behind the goal as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

They celebrated all around the stadium, in fact, as the huge Irish contingent roared the team through the remaining minutes as Ireland entered the knock-out phase of this competition for the first time.

Italy: Salvatore Sirigu; Angelo Ogbonna, Leonardo Bonucci (capt), Andrea Barzagli; Thiago Motta, Stefano Sturaro, Alessandro Florenzi; Federico Bernardeschi (Matteo Darmian 60), Mattia De Sciglio (Stephan El Shaarawy 82); Ciro Immobile (Lorenzo Insigne 69), Simone Zaza.

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (capt), Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward; Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy (Wes Hoolahan 77), James McClean; Shane Long (Stephen Quinn 90), Daryl Murphy (Aiden McGeady 70).

Referee: Ovidiu Hategan (Romania).