Republic of Ireland Under-21s 1-2 Iceland Under-21s
The Republic of Ireland's European Under-21 finals drought will prolong after they failed to secure the necessary victory against Iceland in today's penultimate qualifier at Tallaght Stadium.
Jim Crawford’s side managed to cancel out a first-half opener from Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen with an own-goal 15 minutes from the end but, after losing Nathan Collins to a late red card, Vladimir Ingimundarson plundered the winner in stoppage-time.
By that stage, Ireland had gone all-out attack, aware that a draw wasn’t sufficient to seal a place at next year’s finals.
Six points were essential from the games today and against Luxembourg on Wednesday to clinch one of the five places available for second-placed teams across the nine groups.
"It’s very disappointing," said Crawford afterwards.
"It’s tough losing any game of football but losing it in that manner at the end, it’s a real sucker punch.
"The lads are on the floor in there and it’s our job now to pick them up before Wednesday, to reinforce how good a group they are, that there’s a pathway here to the seniors. Six from this group have already made that step.
"You can’t fault the effort from the players out there. There was a lot of hard work but probably at crucial moments of the game the decision-making and execution of passes cost us opportunities on goal.
"We were getting on top and I thought we had some great opportunities late on in the game but we did throw on a lot of attacking players so we knew we were going to be open.
"It was just unfortunate the way the second goal came about for them but it’s something that the boys have got to learn from."
Crawford made three changes to his starting team beaten 2-0 by Italy, an enforced one coming late after goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu injured his finger in Saturday’s final training session.
Ed McGinty from Sligo Rovers deputised between the sticks, while Liam Scales replaced fellow League of Ireland representative Darragh Leahy at left-back and Anthony Scully started his first competitive game on the flank.
As Crawford indicated, Troy Parrott’s careful recovery from an ankle injury meant him starting on the bench but he was introduced at the break with control of their destiny slipping from Ireland’s grasp.
Inside the opening two minutes, McGinty almost gifted the visitors the opener by losing his footing in his box.
Just as Jón Dagur Thorsteinsson looked poised to profit, the goalkeeper recovered to clear the danger.
Ireland’s first chance came from a rehearsed corner, yet Liam Scales could only strike his own player from wriggling free 12 yards out.
Just as Ireland were settling into the game in torrid conditions, one pass on 25 minutes by senior squad member Thorsteinsson unlocked them.
His deft through-ball from just inside the Ireland half sat up in the wind for Gudjohnsen, son of former Chelsea striker Eidur, to chip the advancing McGinty from an acute angle.
Efforts from distance by Lee O’Connor and Zack Elbouzedi were the best the hosts could muster before the break and they were fortunate not to go in further behind. Kolbeinn Finnsson was first to react when Ireland failed to clear, only to arrow his half-volley a yard wide of the far post.
The entrance of Parrott, with four goals in his four appearances at this level, provided Ireland with a spark, evidenced by him nipping into a central area on 51 minutes to unleash a 25-yard shot over the crossbar.
Still, Brentford goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson was relatively untroubled, easily gathering Michael Obafemi’s tame 66th minute volley and another long-range strike by Parrott.
Joshua Kayode and Danny Mandroiu were only on the pitch as substitutes when they played a part in the equaliser. Switching the play from left to right, O’Connor’s cross found Kayode in the box and despite him missing the ball, it took a decisive deflection off Ari Leifsson to wrongfoot Gunnarsson.
With Ireland chasing a winner, the contest became stretched. The dismissal of Collins with two minutes left for clashing with Thorsteinsson made Ireland even more vulnerable to a counter and it unfolded two minutes into stoppage time as Alfons Sampsted squared for Ingimundarson to stroke the ball home first-time from six yards.
Republic of Ireland: E McGinty (Sligo Rovers); L O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers), C Masterson (QPR), N Collins (Stoke City), L Scales (Shamrock Rovers); C Coventry (West Ham United), J Taylor (Peterborough United); A Scully (Lincoln City), C Ronan (Grasshoppers Zurich), Z Elbouzedi (Lincoln City); M Obafemi (Southampton).
Subs: T Parrott (Millwall) for Scully (46 mins), J Kayode (Carlisle Utd) for Obafemi, D Mandroiu (Bohemians) for Ronan (both 74) D Grant (Bohemians) for Coventry, T O’Connor (Gillingham) for Elbouzedi (both 83 mins).
Iceland: P Gunnarsson; A Sampsted, A Leifsson, R Thorkelsson, H Gunnarsson; A Hauksson, W Willumsson, AF Baldursson; K Finnson, S Gudjohnson, JD Thorsteinsson.
Subs: ÍB Jóhannesson for Willumsson, TJ Helgason for Baldursson (both 61 mins), B Willumsson for Gudjohnson, V Ingimundarson for K Finnson (both 73), K Thordarson for Helgason, inj (88).