Second draw keeps Under-17s in UEFA hunt
Greece Under-17 1-1 Republic of Ireland U-17
Nikos Gianitsanis 4 Paul George 77
The Republic of Ireland snatched a late equaliser for the second game in a row to draw 1-1 with hosts Greece in their UEFA Under-17 Championship Elite Qualifying Round group in Agii-Theodori today.
Paul George was once again the Irish hero as he fired home the equaliser for John Morling's side with a classy strike from the edge of the box.
The Celtic striker struck home in the 77th minute - which is three minutes from time at this age-level - to keep the Irish in the competition.
With Denmark top of the group after their 1-0 win over Latvia this afternoon, Ireland can still win the group if they beat the Latvians and the Danes are held to a draw by the Greeks.
Greece had taken the lead after just four minutes. Evangelos Anastasopoulos fired in a free-kick from 25 yards and Irish keeper Joe Coll made a good save but Nikos Gianitsanis reacted first to convert the rebound.
Kealon Dillon had a 16th minute effort from a free-kick saved by home keeper Stefanos Kapino and the keeper got up well to deny George from the rebound.
Tommie Hoban and Sam Byrne each had headed efforts just off target as Ireland pressed for an equaliser before the break.
The Irish did have a let off in the 32nd minute when Nikolaos Simeonidis hit a shot from distance that Irish keeper Coll did well to turn onto the bar.
Coll made an important stop from Greek skipper Charis Mavrias - who has played Champions League football for Panathinaikos this season - five minutes into the second half.
Hoban had the ball in the net in 70th minute but it was chalked off for a push on a defender and after George's equaliser Hoban came close to snatching an Irish winner when he headed narrowly wide in injury-time.
"It wasn't a good performance from us but we're disappointed we didn't get the three points," said Ireland Under-17s manager John Morling.
"Our defending for their goal was poor. We didn't react quickly enough and it was a bit like getting knocked down in the first round of a boxing match, it took us a long time to settle after that.
"Although we created plenty of chances, we didn't pass the ball like we can. We showed lots of character to keep at it and securing the point but I feel we've more about us than just passion.
"It was a physical game and not a great performance. I've higher expectations of us as a team.
"We've got Latvia in our final group game on Monday. They only lost 1-0 to the Danes with the concession of a late goal and were also beaten by the same score against Holland in the previous round.
"They're a very well-organised defensive unit and we'll have to be at our best to win that game. If we can win it then at least we're still in with a chance of progressing, depending on how the Greece-Denmark game goes."
Republic of Ireland - Joe Coll (Man Utd); Colm Horgan (Salthill Devon), Sean Kavanagh (Belvedere), Tommie Hoban (Watford), Steven Smith (Arsenal), Luke Gallagher (Cherry Orchard), James Murphy (Reading), Philip Roberts (Arsenal), Kealan Dillon (Derby County), Sam Byrne (St Joseph's Boys), Paul George (Celtic). Subs: Bradley Garmston (West Brom) for Murphy 41 mins; Kenneth McEvoy (Tottenham) for Roberts 66.
UEFA U17 European Championship - Elite Qualifying Phase
Group 3 Fixtures and Results
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Greece 2-0 Latvia
Denmark 2-2 Republic of Ireland
Friday, March 25, 2011
Republic of Ireland 1 Greece 1
Denmark 1 Latvia 0
Monday, March 28, 2011
Latvia v Republic of Ireland - Fotis Kosmas Stadium, Alexandropolis
Greece v Denmark - Municipal Stadium, Komotini
Kick-off: 12 pm.