King pleased as Ireland U21s beat Qatar U23s
A first half double from Fulham’s Sean Kavanagh, added to Alan Browne’s second half bicycle kick and a Reece Grego-Cox finish, was enough to secure the victory ahead of Tuesday’s match in Andorra le Vella.
The opening to the game was a tight affair with both teams holding their own on a chilly evening in Greater Manchester. Qatar’s Othman Alawi O Alyahri came closest to testing Daniel Rogers, but his curling effort was well wide.
The deadlock was broken in the 13th minute as Sean Kavanagh added the first of his two goals on the night with a powerful low effort from the corner of the area to leave Muhannad Naim J SH Nussein with no chance of saving it.
1-0 soon turned into 2-0 seven minutes later when Kavanagh stepped up to fire an impressive 25 yard free kick past the dive of the Qatari goalkeeper and into the top corner.
Qatar looked to find a way back into the game almost immediately, but Ahmed Moein Doozandeh couldn’t put enough curl on the ball as he saw his effort flash past Rogers’ post.
The Irish were dominant for the majority of the game and it wasn’t long before more chances were created. Conor Wilkinson, on loan at Barnsley from Bolton, intercepted a back pass and tried to play in Callum O’Dowda but his attempted pass was overhit and the danger was cleared.
20 year-old O’Dowda then came even closer to adding to the tally in the 38th minute after going on a mazy run but he couldn’t find a way past Hussein, who blocked the shot with his leg.
Ireland goalkeeper Daniel Rogers was a spectator for much of the first half, but was forced into a save shortly before half time as he saved down low to prevent Almoez Ali Abdulla’s volley hitting the back of the net.
Head Coach Noel King made six changes at half time as he kept his squad fresh ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Andorra.
Sean Maguire, one of the half time substitutes, was the first to try his luck in the second half as he put his long range free kick just past Hussein’s right post.
The lead was extended to three goals in the 50th minute as Preston’s Alan Browne added himself to the score sheet with an impressive bicycle kick from just inside the area from Sean Long’s cross.
King introduced Everton youngster Harry Charsley into the game in the 61st minute for his first appearance for the U21’s as he replaced Josh Cullen.
Qatar reduced the deficit midway through the second half as Almoez Ali Abdulla fired past the outstretched glove of Eric Grimes from Saleh Badr Al Yazidi’s cut back.
However, it wasn’t long until the three goal lead was restored. Substitute Shamir Fenelon burst down the right and picked out fellow substitute Charsley with a perfectly weighted pass and his shot was turned home by QPR winger Grego-Cox.
Grego-Cox came close to adding a fifth goal late on as he broke into the box following a mazy run, but he saw his effort go the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.
The 18 year-old winger had one of the final chances of the game in the 87th minute as he first saw Hussein tip his effort around the post before nearly catching the Qatari goalkeeper out with an in-swinging corner, forcing him to tip it onto his crossbar.
“We got everything we wanted from tonight’s fixture. It’s a preparation game for Andorra on Tuesday so I’m pleased with the result.” said Head Coach Noel King.
“17 players got 45 minutes, which is great. We scored a few goals, I’m a little bit disappointed that we conceded one, but you have to be happy with the result.
“It’s a boost to the camp, we’re together for seven or eight days which can trying at times, a little bit tough. I’m delighted with the result and now we can focus on Andorra.”
Sean Kavanagh’s second goal, an impressive 25 yard free kick, and Alan Browne’s bicycle kick were the standout goals of the game.
“There was cameras all around the place to record them! They were two fantastic strikes from Kav (Sean Kavanagh), he’s got a beautiful left foot and then an unbelievable overhead kick from Alan Browne,” added King.
Six changes were made at half time by the Head Coach and he believes it was a good opportunity for the youngsters to show what they were capable of after making the step up to Under 21 level.
“Three players made their debut tonight so that’s good news, I’m happy with them all. We’re not sure about qualities of various different players, you only have them for a special time.”
King continued: “When they’re in camp you get to know them better than when they’re playing for their team. We’ve learned an awful lot in the three days and I’m hoping to continue learning about them."
The game against Qatar U23’s was a warm-up fixture ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA U21 Championships Qualifying Round Group 2 qualifier against Andorra, and King is expecting a tough test from the opponents.
“We played them (Andorra) in Waterford and we won 1-0. We had dominance of the ball, but they’re a very stubborn team and hard to break down so it will be a difficult task. I think today was a good preparation for that game, I think we were quiet sharp.”
“Scoring four is always good, we probably should have scored more, but Andorra is going to be a different challenge. I think that’s a challenge to create against a packed defence and try and open them as many times as we can.”
Ireland: Rogers (Grimes 46), Long, Hoban (D.Lenihan 46), Griffin, Connors, Browne, Cullen (Charsley 61), O’Dowda (B.Lenihan 46), Connolly (Maguire 46), Wilkinson (Fenelon 46), Kavanagh (Grego-Cox 46)
Qatar: Hussein, Musaab (c), Fathy, Othman (Al Sadi 72), Alharazi (Yazidi 61), Al-Khalfan (Al Brake 61), Moein, Al Hajri (Bazmandegan 72), Madibo (Anad 72), Almoez, Ali Al Abdulrahman.
Subs not used: Younis (GK), Ghaderi, Alaaeldin, Hassan Ali, O Alyahri