2021 Euro U21 qualifier: Sweden 1-3 Republic of Ireland
Troy Parrott was the Republic of Ireland's hero as he came off the bench to score twice in a vital U21 European Championship qualification victory over Sweden in Kalmar tonight.
Behind at the interval to the group’s second seeds, Aaron Connolly missed a penalty but the Tottenham striker hit a brace either side of Conor Masterson’s header.
The win clinches maximum points for Ireland from their opening three qualifiers, setting up a crucial match against top seeds Italy in Dublin on 10 October. Only the top team is guaranteed to reach the 2021 finals.
Ireland boss Stephen Kenny caused a couple of surprises with the three changes he made to the side which beat Armenia 1-0 on Friday. Out of the team went the match-winner Parrott, along with main striker Adam Idah and winger Gavin Kilkenny.
Jonathan Afolabi, a sensation at Under-19 Euro finals in the summer, was handed his first start leading the line, with Danny Mandroiu of Bohemians occupying the supporting role behind.
Sweden are seasoned campaigners at this level, not finishing outside the top two in each of their last seven groups. Kenny’s ploy of attacking from the outset, however, caught them off-guard and Ireland almost grabbed an early lead.
Connolly cut in from the left, swapping passes with Mandroiu om the edge of the box, before curling a low shot past the far post with PontusDahlberg.
The Watford goalkeeper was kept busy by the Irish but only after the hosts made use of a strong period to forge ahead on 19 minutes.
Full international Daleho Irandust tested Caoimhin Kelleher with a near post attempt before Sunderland striker Benjamin Mbungu-Kimpioka nodded his downward header over the crossbar.
Roland Nilsson’s side were finding openings and capitalised with a brilliant goal from their captain Mattias Svanberg. The Bologna midfielder finished off a flowing move with a first-time 35-yard rocket which found the top corner.
Ireland struck to their task, with Masterson and Darragh Leahy seeing their headers denied by Dahlberg. The keeper was also equal to an effort from Connolly following Zack Elbouzedi’s cross.
The game turned on its head with the introduction of Parrott. When Mandroiu left the pitch clutching his hip, Kenny summoned his 17-year-old and he soon worked his magic. Dahlberg was warned of his threat with a shot that he batted away within two minutes.
Afolabi has his header ruled out for offside and Parrott was requesting the ball on 64 minutes when Connolly was tripped inside the box bySvanberg. Connolly got to keep it but Dahlberg went the right way and flicked his penalty away.
Still, Ireland battled away and the equaliser came four minutes later. Parrott was perfectly placed to find the root of the net with a first-time striker after Afolabi’s left-wing cross was only half cleared.
Kenny’s crew continued to attack and got their rewards in the latter stages. Firstly, Masterson evaded his marker to make it 2-1 with a header on 86 minutes before Parrott dinked the ball over Dahlberg for the third on the break in stoppage time.
Sweden: P Dahlberg; F Beijmo, F Hadzikadunic, H Andersson, T Isherwood (JF Cajuste 62); D Kulusekvski, S Ingelsson (B Hussein 81), M Svanberg, E Hansson (J Larsson 62); B Mbungu-Kimpioka (V Gyokeres 67), D Irandust (N Froling 81).
Republic of Ireland: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O'Connor (Celtic), D O'Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi(Waterford), D Mandroiu (Bohemians), A Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion); J Afolabi (Celtic).
Subs: T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur) for Mandroiu (51), G Kilkenny (Bournemouth) for Elbouzedi (73), A Idah (Norwich City) for Afolabi (82).
Ref: Rade Obrenovic (SVN).