U21s fall to late winner in Turkey
Turkey U21 1 - 0 Republic of Ireland U21
A battling performance by a youthful Ireland Under-21 team ended in cruel defeat in Izmit as hosts Turkey netted a late goal to claim the win.
Ireland took the game to their opponents and their play deserved at least a draw. However, as has been a feature of this campaign, the result was not to match the performance for the Under-21s.
Injuries and suspensions had caused havoc in the Ireland camp in the days leading-up to the match, with eleven players having been forced to withdraw from the squad. Temporary manager Wim Koevermans named four changes to the starting XI which faced Switzerland, with Brendan Moloney, Seamus Conneely, Graham Carey and Adam Rooney all handed starting positions.
Having lost a full team worth of players already, Ireland’s remarkable injury jinx continued during the course of this game, with Robbie Brady forced off after half an hour and Rob Kiernan lasting less than an hour before having to depart the pitch.
Indeed, such was the youthful nature of Ireland’s team that five of the starting XI, as well as five of the six substitutes, are still eligible to represent their country at Under-19 level.
The game began in a lively tempo but a crowded midfield area ensured that neither team could gain a foothold in the match. Ireland pressed their opponents, forcing several corner kicks but rarely threatening Turkish goalkeeper Karabulut during the opening exchanges.
The first real sight of goal came after 23 minutes and it was Turkey who threatened. Full-back Cek played a one-two with Kose and found himself in the Irish penalty area. However, his shot was well saved by the on-rushing Stephen Henderson.
Ireland carved out three half-chances during the closing minutes of the half. First, Graham Carey drilled a free kick across the face of goal but there was no Irish foot close enough to make contact.
On 43 minutes substitute Daniel Kearns crossed from the right but Adam Rooney’s glancing header went wide. Two minutes later, Seamus Coleman, captaining the team on what will be his final appearance for his country at Under-21 level, crossed to Graham Carey at the back post but the Dublin-born winger could not direct the ball on target.
Carey again drilled the ball across goal on 60 minutes but his cross, which came after great work by Kearns and Coleman down the right, was cut out by Basdas before it could reach its target.
Hourihane came within inches of breaking the deadlock just moments later when effort from the edge of the box cracked off the post before going wide.
Ireland were gaining an edge in an increasingly open game and the very next attack saw the visitors again come agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock. The impressive Kearns crossed from the right but the ‘keeper got down well to push Rooney’s shot wide of the post.
Kearns was again provider on 75 minutes when his ball found Hourihane on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s shot dragged just wide of the post.
Despite their pressure, Ireland were to fall behind just three minutes later. After some neat play on the right wing, the ball found its way to Kose 12 yards out, who placed his shot beyond the out-stretched arm of Henderson.
Captain Coleman almost snatched a draw in the dying moments but his header from a corner kick was cleared amongst a sea of bodies in the Turkey penalty area.
Turkey: Ozan Karabulut, Serkan Kurtulus (Mahmut Boz, 70 mins.), Ozgur Cek, Serdar Kesimal, Mahmut Tekdemir, Baris Basdas, Necip Uysal, Burak Kaplan (Serdar Gurler, 63 mins.), Tevfik Jose – Capt., Emre Colak (Tolgay Ali Arslan, h/t), Sahin Aygunes
Substitutes not used: Ertac Ozbir, Serdar Eylik, Hasan Ali Kaldirim, Burak Calik
Republic of Ireland: Stephen Henderson, Seamus Coleman – Capt. – Brendan Moloney, Robert Kiernan (Shane McEleney, 55 mins), Seamus Conneely, Richie Towell, Conor Hourihane, Conor Clifford (Joe Mason, 75 mins.), Adam Rooney, Robbie Brady (Daniel Kearns, 35 mins), Graham Carey
Substitutes not used: Shane Redmond, Karl Sheppard, Paddy Madden
Referee: Alexander Stavrev (MKD)