REPORT | MU16 | Ireland 3-2 Finland
Two goals from Michael Noonan (pictured wearing number 9) and a strike from Max Kovalevskis secured back-to-back wins in Co. Louth making it the perfect start for the Young Boys in Green in their opening games of the season.
Two late goals from Finland threatened set-up a dramatic final minute but Ireland produced a dominant display.
Ireland were coming into the game full of confidence having dispatched Estonia at the same venue 6-1 on Tuesday. On the same night Finland were beaten by neighbours Northern Ireland 1-0 in Fermanagh.
The game was quiet in the opening stages which suited the visitors with Blackburn Rovers’ Rory McDonnell the first to test the Finnish goal with a long-range effort that went harmlessly over in the 13th minute.
Ireland began to apply the pressure, Kovalevskis drove forward down the right squaring a cross that was begging to be put home. The ball avoided Charles Akinrintayo and Noonan before falling to Oskar Schubo-Keeley who couldn’t keep his effort below the bar.
Midway through the first half Ireland were awarded a penalty. A mazy run by Finn Sherlock drew in tackles from several Finnish players before finally being felled inside the penalty area. Noonan, who missed a spot-kick on Tuesday, made no mistake this time, sending Maximillan Aerts the wrong way.
It was one-way traffic as Ireland sniffed out a second, Grady McDonnell forced a smart save after getting on the end of Akinrintayo’s centre. Aerts was called into action in 40th minute when McDonnell was given space on the edge on the box to fire at goal but the goalkeeper was able to dive low to keep it out.
Kovalevskis, who was a persistent threat to the Finnish side, almost produced a moment of magic just before half-time. The Shamrock Rovers man pirouetted around two midfielders before dribbling past a third player but his finish lacked the composure and went just over.
However Kovalevskis kept his composure just after half-time to make it 2-0. McDonnell’s cross wasn’t cleared by Ville Kumpu and it fell perfectly to Kovalevskis who kept his head to fire past substitute keeper Niki Hasselman in the 47th minute.
With 20-minutes left Noonan netted his second when he got on the end of Sherlock's corner to head home for 3-0.
Nicholas Vainio netted for Finland in the 80th minute in Finland’s first attempt of any meaning. Alex Noonan was called into action in the first time in the 86th minute when he was forced to palm away an effort from Antton Nylund as the visitors sought a second.
That second came in injury time when Noonan misjudged a punch and Ermal Rrustemi was able to profit from the mistake.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Paul Osam said: "For 70 minutes we were very good but for the last 20 minutes we were a bit loose and conceded two goals.
"We played very well and dominated the ball and that's the way we want to play as a team.
"I'm delighted with how things went this week, 75 per cent of it was very good but we're still striving for perfection and I always will as a coach. The boys can look back on this week with pride because they executed the game plan very well for each of the games and that's all we as a group can ask for."
Ireland: Noonan, Oladiti, Sherlock, Steward (McGrath, 46’) , McDonagh, Finneran © (McMahon-Brown, 71’), Schubo-Keeley (Martos, 71'), McDonnell, Akinrintayo (O’Neill, 46’), Kovalevskis (Ogbonna, 71’) Noonan (Tollett, 71’)
Finland: Aerts, Grönlund, Ashton Ezingwa, Zaitra, Niemi, Tuomi, Siren, Kumpu ©, Alex Ezingwa, Katz, Haikala. Substitutes: Hasselman, Hietaktangas, Nylund, Titinen, Hukkanen, Avikainen, Ramos, Lehtomäki, Rrustemi, Vainio
Referee: Liam Byrne (Ireland)
International Friendly Results
Tuesday, September 26 | Ireland 6-1 Estonia
Thursday, September 28 | Ireland 3-2 Finland