Iceland U21s 1-0 Republic of Ireland U21s
Iceland's Svein Aron Gudjohnson, son of former Chelsea striker Eidur, ended Ireland’s unbeaten start to their Under-21 European Championship qualification campaign by converting a first-half penalty in breezy Reykjavik this afternoon.
Stephen Kenny’s side, who had Lee O’Connor sent off after a second yellow late on, remain top of their group but Iceland and Italy could dislodge them by winning their games in hand.
Played in testing conditions, Ireland created a couple of half-chances in the second half to equalise, the best falling to Dara O’Shea, whose close-range toe poke was turned around the post by their Brentford goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson.
Next up for Ireland is a double-header next month away to Armenia and at home to Sweden.
"We're extremely disappointed with the result," Kenny said afterwards.
"Looking back, the penalty looks extremely harsh and after that, Iceland made it very difficult for us.
"We had a number of great chances but couldn't find the goal we needed and we've got to pick ourselves up from it. The conditions were very difficult for the players and Iceland defended very well."
Michael Obafemi came in for his first Under-21 start in place of the suspended Troy Parrott while Kenny replaced Liam Scales and Connor Ronan with Kameron Ledwidge and Danny Mandroiu.
The Icelanders, bruised from their first defeat of the campaign, a 5-0 hammering by Sweden on Saturday, were on the front foot from the off.
Switching the play from the right to left, yet mainly directly it up the middle, physical strength represented their main threat.
Ireland were almost caught out when Kolbeinn Finnsson was left unmarked at the back post but he could only glance his header wide.
Iceland captain Jon Dagur Porsteinsson then forced goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher to go full stretch with a shot from an acute angle
The hosts grabbed the lead on 29 minutes in controversial circumstances when Moldovan referee Dumitri Muntean penalised O'Connor after Alex Hauksson’s shot struck his arm. Up stepped Italy-based Gudjohnson for to send Kelleher the wrong way.
In typical breezy Nordic conditions, Ireland still managed to fashion a couple of chances themselves.
Danny Mandroiu whipped two free-kicks around the wall but over the crossbar while Obafemi shot straight at Gunnarsson following a lay-off from Adam Idah.
Ireland struggled to break down the rigid hosts in the second half despite some intricate passing in midfield by Conor Coventry and Jayson Molumby.
On the one occasion they got down the channel, Mandroiu’s cross was diverted by the arm of Gunnarsson just as Zach Elbouzedi seemed ready for a tap-in.
To Iceland’s credit, they solidified in midfield and might have extended their lead towards the end as the contest developed into a scrappy affair.
The fussy referee annoyed Kenny further with a minute left by issuing O’Connor with a red card for a late tackle on Porsteinsson. The Celtic teen had been earlier booked for the penalty incident.
It was a sharp contrast to Thursday’s exhibition of football between Ireland and Italy before a sold-out Tallaght but Kenny’s crew must respond swiftly to remain in the mix for a first-ever qualification.
Iceland: P Gunnarsson; A Sampsted, A Leifsson, I Olafsson (F Palmonson 80), H Gunnarsson; A Hauksson; K Finnsson, J Pordarson (D Hafsteinsson 77), J Porsteinsson, W Willumsson; S Gudjohnson (V Ingiumundarson 77).
Republic of Ireland: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O'Connor (Celtic), D O'Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), K Ledwidge (Southampton); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi (Waterford), D Mandroiu (Bohemians), M Obafemi (Southampton); A Idah (Norwich City).
Subs: G Kilkenny (Bournemouth) for Obafemi (75 mins), A Drinan (GAIS, Sweden) for Mandroiu (86 mins).
Referee: Dumitri Muntean (MDA).