Rep of Ireland 2-2 Bulgaria
The Republic of Ireland's hopes of reaching the UEFA European Under-17 Championships in Israel came to an end as they failed to progress from the Elite Phase following their 2-2 draw with Bulgaria at the Municipal, Santa Comba Dao in Portugal.
After defeats to Portugal and Finland in their opening two games in Group 8, Ireland knew that they needed a comprehensive win against the Bulgarians and results elsewhere to go their way if they were to qualify for the tournament next month.
But goals from substitute Rocco Vata and Sam Curtis were only enough to earn them a point as they had trailed by two goals at half-time thanks to a brace from Bulgaria’s Roberto Iliev Raychev.
The Irish team dominated for large spells of the first half but they paid the price for a lapse in concentration in the 13th minute when Raychev raced onto a loose back pass before the attacker expertly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
And things got even worse for the Boys in Green shortly before the break when Raychev notched his brace to put his side 2-0 up when his perfectly timed run from the right allowed him to hammer home a cross pulled back from the left.
Ireland head coach Colin O’Brien made a couple of alterations to his side during the interval and it paid dividends just past the hour mark when the recently introduced Rocco Vata powered his header past goalkeeper Aleks Anastasov Bozhev from close-range.
Ireland continued to pile players forward in their numbers and they deservedly grabbed an equaliser in the 75th minute when Sam Curtis drilled his shot past the keeper at his back post.
Ireland continued to go in search of a winner but ultimately it just was not to be their day or their tournament.
Republic of Ireland: Doherty; Savshak (Vata 46), Heffernan, Curtis, Martin Sean McHale (O'Brien 59); Tetteh (Umeh 59), Ferizaj, McManus, Zefi; Bloxham, O’Mahony (McLoughlin 46).
Bulgaria: Bozhev; Atanasov, Georgiev, Marinov (Pavlov 70), Tsonev; Do (Chakarov 87), Stoyanov, Mitkov (Hadzha 80); Raychev (Vasilev 87), Kirev, Marinov.Referee: Ion Orlic (Moldova).