Montenegro U21s 2-1 Republic of Ireland U21s

Conor Coventry missed a penalty six minutes from time as the Republic of Ireland Under-21s' gutsy second-half comeback fell short against Montenegro at Gradski Stadion.

Ireland came into this European Championship qualifier in Podgorica third in Group F behind Sweden and Italy having started their campaign with two wins and a draw.

They were without the injured Tyreik Wright but did have the remainder of the squad intact after a relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions allowed the head coach to pick his UK and Germany-based players.

However Jim Crawford's men endured a nightmare opening as Nikola Krstovic darted on to a through ball in the fourth minute and skated around Brian Maher before sliding home a cool finish.

Four minutes later, it was 2-0. Ivan Vukcevic found space in the visiting box and slammed home an emphatic finish.

The visitors did grow in the game in the last 15 minutes of the opening half and were much livelier on the turnaround.

In the 74th minute they got the lifeline they craved as a corner led to a scramble, with Mark McGuinness squeezing a header home.

JJ Kayode went close to levelling soon after following great play by Will Ferry,.

Then, after Ross Tierney and Kayode were denied what looked like certain penalties, Ireland were finally awarded a spot-kick in the 83rd minute when Jake O'Brien was fouled inside the area.

Coventry scored from the spot last Friday against Luxembourg but this time his effort was too close to the keeper, who pushed it on to the post and gratefully gathered at the second attempt.

Ireland face both Italy and Sweden next month; they drew 1-1 earlier today.

Montenegro: Izevic; Pesukic, Perovic, Babic, Raznatovic; Krstovic, Janjic, Vukotic (Divanovic ht); Vukcevic (Obradovic 70), Sijaric, Krstovic (Kujovic 57).

Republic of Ireland: Maher; O'Connor, O'Brien, McGuinness, Bagan; Coventry, Kilkenny (Devoy 77), Tierney (Kayode 77); Gilbert (O'Neill 60), Ferry, Ferguson (Whelan 60).

Referee: Barbeno Luca (San Marino).