Ireland U17 defeat Latvia to reach Elite phase
Republic of Ireland U17 1-0 Latvia U17
Aidan O'Brien 80
The Republic of Ireland have progressed to the Elite phase of the Under-17 UEFA Championship qualifiers with a late win over Latvia today (Tuesday) in Albena, Bulgaria.
Substitute Aidan O'Brien struck with a minute remaining to clinch another three points for Ireland, two days after they opened the campaign by defeating mini-group hosts Bulgaria 2-1.
Ireland's haul of six points means they are guaranteed one of the top-two places in the four-nation group, enough to seal a place in the next phase.
Sean McCaffrey's side can win the group outright by avoiding defeat against Sweden on Friday in their final First phase qualifier. The Swedes were held scoreless by Bulgaria in today's other game.
Ireland's starting team showed three changes to the side that beat Bulgaria, with goalkeeper Jack Bonham of Watford replacing the injured Sean McDermott in goal, while Derrick Williams (Aston Villa) and Anton Rodgers (Chelsea) came in for Kevin Knight and Shane Byrne (both Leicester City).
Six minutes in, Williams lofted a superb diagonal ball into the path of Brian McGroary who won a corner from which Carl McHugh headed just over.
Ireland continued to attack and McHugh set up Daniel Purdy for a great chance two minutes before the break. Latvia goalkeeper Varažinskis did well to stop Purdy's drive but Frankie Sutherland followed up with the rebound only for his effort to come back off the crossbar.
The Irish managed to still have the better of the chances early in the second half, with McHugh and Anton Rodgers drawing fine saves from the ‘keeper.
Chelsea midfielder Rodgers, son of Reading manager Brendan Rodgers, found another opening on 55 minutes yet the Latvian defence managed to block his attempt on goal.
Despite spending most of the game in their own half, Latvia almost nicked a goal nine minutes from time but Ireland captain Sean McGinty raced back to produce a terrific goal-line clearance.
Ireland manager Sean McCaffrey made his final substitution of the game three minutes from the end, bringing on Aidan O'Brien for Purdy, and the Millwall youngster snatched the winning goal inside the final sixty seconds of regulation time.
Brian McGroary was inch-perfect with his delivery to the back post from a free-kick on the left and O'Brien was there to convert with a cool finish.
Ireland U17 v Latvia:
Jack Bonham - Watford
Michael Barker - Belvedere
Richard Bryan - Aston Villa
Sean McGinty - Manchester United
Derrick Williams - Aston Villa
Brian McGroary - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Frankie Sutherland - QPR
Anton Rodgers - Chelsea
Carl McHugh - Reading
George Smith - Southend United
Daniel Purdy - West Ham United
Shane Byrne - Leicester City for Williams (40 mins)
Callum Webb - Arsenal for Rodgers (73 mins)
Aiden O'Brien - Millwall for Purdy (77 mins)
Neil Yadolahi - St. Kevin's Boys
Ben Glasgow - Arsenal
Kevin Knight - Leicester City.
Under-17 UEFA Championship first phase qualifiers:
Sunday, September 27
Republic of Ireland 2-1 Bulgaria
Sweden 2-0 Latvia
Tuesday, September 29
Republic of Ireland 1-0 Latvia
Sweden 0-0 Bulgaria
Friday, October 2nd (3pm)
Republic of Ireland v Sweden, Albena Stadium
Bulgaria v Latvia.