U21s lose at home to Montenegro
Republic of Ireland 1 Montenegro 2
Noel King’s Republic of Ireland Under 21’s were unfortunate to lose at home to Montenegro in their UEFA European Championship qualifier at Tallaght Stadium.
A first-half header from Matt Doherty put Ireland in control of the game but two goals in the second period from Luka Dordevic and Stefan Mugosa saw the away team collect the three points.
It was a cruel blow for King’s team as they played so well in front of a strong crowd of 1,302, but they were denied a third win in Group 6 and must now plan for the September 5 trip to Germany.
Requiring a win to remain in contention for a play-off spot, Ireland started brightly with Connor Smith adapting to a midfield role alongside Jeff Hendrick impeccably and bursting forward at times.
It was Smith who registered the first attempt on goal on six minutes when stealing possession and blasting over the bar from distance. While off target, it was a positive first step for the home side.
From there Ireland began to dominate with Watford’s Sean Murray, who picked up the 3 FAI Under 21 Player of the Year award this week, leading by example with weaving runs, clever link-up play and accurate passing.
The opening goal actually came from a move started by the 20-year-old as his shot was deflected wide and from the resulting corner, delivered by Anthony Forde, the ball was powered in by Doherty on 11 minutes.
The Wolves man had lost his marker inside the penalty area and connected with the cross to open the scoring. Momentum was now in Ireland’s favour and they made the most of it with stylish patterns of play.
King’s 4-2-3-1 formation worked a treat as Jack Grealish continually found gaps in the Montenegro defence and went close with two efforts on goal before Murray blasted a shot over during a good spell.
The visitors were unable to create many scoring opportunities of their own, although Mugosa did screw a shot just wide before the interval. And they reacted upon returning by bringing on Nemanja Gojacanin.
Ireland, though, picked up where they left off with Jeff Hendrick forcing keeper Danijel Petkovic into a fine save on 63 minutes before the No 1 denied captain Shane Duffy and Forde in two quick-fire stops.
Montenegro then pulled level on 75 minutes when Dordevic found some space to roam into and drilled a shot past Sean McDermott. And they followed it up with a goal to take the lead when Mugosa headed in two minutes later.
King’s team could not find the goals to regain control despite their good play and with Sean McGinty sent off for collecting two yellow cards, they will and will now have to aim on finishing the qualifying campaign on a high.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: McDermott; Doherty, Egan, Duffy, McGinty; Hendrick, Smith; Grealish, Murray (McAlinden 78), Forde (McEvoy 82); O’Brien (Drennan 78).
MONTENEGRO: Petkovic; M Vukcevic, Alic, Bakrac, Bogdanovic; Zoric (Gojacanin h-t), Jankovic, Bakic (Radunovic 90), Kosovic; Mugosa, Dordevic (A Vukcevic 90).
Referee: Nikolaj Hanni (SUI).