"The referee has been cheated, the game has been cheated."
Strong words from Ireland manager Colin O’Brien following his side’s 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic in the Under-17 European Championships.
Ireland fought their way back into the Group A encounter in Waterford as a Andrew Omobamidele’s 88th-minute equaliser secured a share of the points for the tournament hosts.
But Ireland’s efforts to snatch a victory in injury time were dealt a cruel blow as Festy Ebosele was harshly sent off in the closing stages.
Chasing a hopeful ball up the pitch, Ebosele made minimum contact with centre-half Jan Hellebrand.
But the Czech captain’s reaction appeared to convince the referee that something more sinister had occurred and the Irish winger picked up another caution and was sent off for the remaining minutes.
As a result, the Derby County midfielder will now miss Ireland’s crucial final group game with Belgium on Thursday and manager O’Brien was livid about the referee’s decision following the game.
Festy Ebosele sent off in controversial circumstances for the Ireland U-17 team in the closing minutes of their European Championship 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic. pic.twitter.com/sWl4F5DqGi— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) May 6, 2019
"It is the wrong decision and we will be appealing that," said O’Brien, speaking to RTE Sport following the game.
"The referee has been cheated, the game has been cheated. It was embarrassing what the player did.
"I will not be accepting one of my players suffering from someone cheating."
The Ireland manager will not actually have grounds for an appeal ahead of Thursday’s final group game however, as second yellows can only be rescinded in cases of mistaken identity.
That means Ebosele will definitely miss out on the deciding encounter.
RTÉ Sport has been informed by a UEFA official that attended the game that Ireland can appeal the yellow card but it's highly unlikely that they'll be successful.
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But O’Brien certainly took heart and pride in his side’s performance at the RSC, especially for the character and maturity that they showed coming back to equalise late in the game.
"They don’t know when they are beaten," said O’Brien.
"They are a real gutsy bunch of lads, there is a lot of steeliness and good personality. And overall, I thought we should have won the game.
"They continued to probe to get back into the game. They didn’t panic, they understood the situation and deservedly got an equaliser."
Playing their second game in three games, O’Brien admitted that there was an element of fatigue in both sides throughout the game, which lacked intensity at times.
But Ireland still looked calm and composed throughout the opening 60 minutes with the defence giving little away, only for a concentration lapse allowing the visitors to grab a precious goal in the 63rd minute.
"We just knocked off, allowed too much space, just didn’t get to the ball, but that can happen," said O’Brien, not dwelling too much on the Czech goal.
"But the response was calm, measured, we went back in search of an equaliser and again in a set-play, we came up trumps.
"It was a great finish from Andrew."
Friday’s opponents Belgium secured a 3-0 victory in the other Group A game, handing the group’s top seeds the advantage going into the final set of fixtures.
Ireland, however, will be buoyed by the fact that a victory on Thursday will send them through to the knock-out stages without having to rely on results elsewhere.
And O’Brien knows the manner of the result in Waterford will hand his side a very welcome confidence boost going into the Tallaght Stadium encounter.
"It sets it up for Thursday and everything is to play for going into the last game."