REPORT | Sweden U21 0-2 Ireland U21
Sweden came into this game sitting top of the group but it was Ireland who emerged victorious when the sides last met back in November with Ollie O’Neill grabbing a late winner at Tallaght Stadium.
The home side were the first to threaten in the 11th minute when Amin Sarr raced onto a long ball over the top of the Irish defence from Jesper Tolinsson but under pressure from the recovering Oisin McEntee, the striker’s powerful strike was saved well by goalkeeper Brian Maher.
That save proved to be decisive as less than a minute later, the young Boys in Green took the lead thanks to a smart finish by Ross Tierney.
The Motherwell midfielder was also involved in the build-up as he laid the ball off to Gavin Kilkenny on the right before continuing his run into the penalty area.
His clever movement meant he was in the right place when Kilkenny’s cross was sliced by the defender but Tierney still had a lot to do and he did it brilliantly to get his foot over the ball and drill it past the keeper from close range.
From that point on Ireland defended resiliently although they did need Maher to stand tall and produce another excellent stop to deny Armin Gigovic, who was sent bearing down on goal following neat interplay between Patrik Wålemark and Sarr.
The rearguard held firm in the second period and despite dominating possession for large spells, the Swedish failed to create any meaningful chances to grab an equaliser.
They would have a strong appeal for a penalty waved away late on after Isak Jansson went down inside the box following a challenge from Joel Bagan.
But in the last minute of normal time, Ireland sealed a massive victory thanks to substitute Wright.
A long kick-out from Maher was headed on by Joshua Kayode and into the path of the Cork native but after seeing his initial effort saved, he remained calm and slotted home the rebound to seal a memorable result for Jim Crawford’s side.
Next up for the Republic of Ireland under 21s are home games against Bosnia and Herzegovina (June 3rd) and Montenegro (June 6th) before an away trip to Italy (June 14th).
Sweden: Brolin; Holm, Ousou, Tolinsson, Kahl; Findell, Hussein (Gustavsson 50), Gigovic (Jansson 67); Wålemark, Sarr, Abraham (Ondrejka 67).
Republic of Ireland: Maher; McEntee, O’Brien, McGuinness, Bagan; O’Connor, Coventry, Kilkenny; Tierney, Odubeko (Kayode 70), O’Neill (Wright 64).
Referee: Vitor Ferreira (Portugal)