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Late goals shade it for Portugal U21s

Portugal U-21              2-0      Republic of Ireland U-21
Abel 89, Josué 90+4

 

The Republic of Ireland were closing in on an encouraging draw against Portugal in tonigtht's friendly match at the Est√°dio Municipal de √Āgueda until the hosts netted twice in the dying stages.

 

A spirited Ireland display repelled much of what the Portuguese had promised from the early exchanges and indeed, Noel King's side enjoyed enough possession to have gotten on the scoresheet before the late blast.

 

With thoughts soon turning to the 2013 European Championship qualifying campaign, the manager was able to gain a valuable insight into the capabilities of his charges.

 

Ireland's starting team showed six changes from the line-up which drew against Cyprus last month, with Conor Henderson, fresh from his Arsenal's first-team debut earlier in the month, harnessing the midfield.

 


He was accompanied by newcomer Adam Barton in the centre, whose overall input during the ninety minutes was a major plus.

 

As an exercise against one of Europe's most skilful teams, the worth was massive to King, albeit the manner of defeat was difficult to absorb.

 

The concession of the two goals, in the 89th and 94th minutes, arrived at a time when Ireland were in the midst of weathering a storm triggered by their reduction in personnel to ten players.

 

 

King had used all his seven substitutes when Richie Towell felt the full force of a tackle ten minutes from time and left the field on a stretcher.

 

 

The space vacated by Towell's departure left Ireland short on cover, inviting a home side already anxious to settle their expectant crowd, and though the deadlock was eventually broken, it took some goal to do it.

 

Debutant Abel, on as a half-time substitute, strode forward towards the right side of the penalty area and thundered an unstoppable drive from thirty yards high into the near corner of the net.

 


Ireland's response was swift, with Paddy Madden and Barton leading the charge, but the deficit was doubled in the fourth of five minutes added on when another substitute, Josué, preyed on a mistake by goalkeeper Michael Quirke inside his area to dispossess him and tap home the second.

 

It had looked so different in the first half. Ireland were the team most crisp with their passes and even full-backs Mark Connolly and Gavin Gunning were given license to roam forward to link with the attacks.

 

Barton's eye for goal was evident after 25 minutes as he provided Ireland's first pot on target.

 

Joshua Silva needlessly played a loose pass towards the centre-circle which was seized upon by the Preston North End midfielder and his thirty-yard snap-shot required goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to parry the effort.

 

Aaron Doran showed his versatility to the cause by operating as the focal point of a three-pronged attack. His first-half industry should have yielded a penalty award two minutes before the break but for a harsh decision by Referee Antonio Costa to allow Hugo Costa's clip on the attacker inside the penalty area go unpunished.

 

 

The second half was more of an even affair, as the substitutes from both teams injected real purpose to the play.

 

Portugal pressed in numbers and timely interventions by Lanre Oyebanjo and Rob Kiernan blocked what were sure to be close-range attempts on goal.

 

Henderson continued to be a presence in midfield for Ireland until an over-zealous tackle from his marker curtailed his evening.

 

As Ronan Murray replaced the Arsenal man, it left an empty bench and the next player to suffer an injury wasn't allowed to be replaced.
That left the Irish on the back-foot for the latter stages, succumbing to a spectacular opening goal.

 

Republic of Ireland: McLoughlin (Stockport); Connolly (Bolton), Canavan (Scunthorpe United), Kiernan (Wycombe), Gunning (Motherwell); Towell (Hibernian), Barton (Preston), Henderson (Arsenal); Clifford (Notts County), Doran (Inverness), O'Connor (Ipswich).

Substitutions: Hourihane (Ipswich Town) for O'Connor, Oyebanjo (Histon) for Connolly, Duffy (Burnley) for Canavan, Quirke (Coventry) for McLoughlin (all 46 mins), Madden (Carlisle) for Henderson (56 mins), Dunleavy (Wolves) for Gunning (67 mins), Murray (Torquay Utd) for Doran (76 mins).

Portugal: Lopes; Ivo Pinto, Joshua Silva, Faria, Costa, Martins, Viana, Ferreira, Jo√£o Silva, Edu, Bebe.
Subs: Cristiano Figueiredo, Dani, João Pereira, Vitor Bastos, Ruben, David Simão, Josué, Ricardo Martins, Abel, Fredy

Referee: Antonio Costa (Portugal). 

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