REPORT | U17 EURO | Ireland bow out following Spain defeat

REPORT | U17 EURO | Ireland bow out following Spain defeat

Ireland Men’s Under-17 suffered defeat to a very impressive Spain side in their UEFA European Under-17 Championship Quarter Final in Budapest this evening.

Although 3-0 did not necessarily reflect the hard work and spirited performance that the Young Boys in Green showed, ultimately it was the quality of opposition that eventually told as goals from Alejandro Granados, Marc Guiu and Yamine Lamal sent Spain through to the semi-final.

Having turned their group around impressively from their opening day defeat, Colin O’Brien’s young guns showed real quality to record back-to-back wins, deservedly earning their place in the last eight against a strong Spain side with a rich history in the competition.

The nine-time winners included danger man Lamal - who became FC Barcelona’s youngest ever player this season with an impressive cameo off the bench against Real Betis – and the 15-year-old showed again why there was such hype around him when he did well to dispossess Naj Razi on the edge of his own area, fashioning a yard of space but saw his powerful strike bravely blocked by Jake Grante.

Other than this early scare, Ireland showed great organisation and discipline to hold their shape and keep the Spanish play in front of them, while looking to carry a threat on the break.

Luke Kehir and Romeo Akachukwu also worked a great attacking position down the right side, but the Waterford man’s low cross was read by keeper Raul Jimenez.

It was going to take something special to break down the Irish resilience and with 22-minutes played Alejandro Granados stepped up to hit one of the goals of the tournament. Having been teed up by the aforementioned Lamal, the Orlando City B youngster let fly with an incredible curling effort from 30-yards that flew into the top corner giving Jason Healy no chance.

Ireland began to enjoy little spells of possession with the impressive Naj Razi carrying the attacking threat, bravely taking on all comers as he tried to work dangerous situations for his side.

Ireland stopper Healy remained relatively untested as the opening period grew to a close, although Juan Hernandez blazed over from the edge of the area just before the break, but the big worry for O’Brien would be the amount of work his side was putting in off the ball in energy sapping heat.

Six minutes after the restart though, Healy was certainly needed, producing a terrific reaction save to deny Javier Hernandez’ powerful header from close range.

Ireland responded well and began to push the Spanish back into their own half. Minutes later Ireland went close to levelling when Luke Kehir whipped in a dangerous cross from the left that found Ike Orazi at the back post who failed to get clean contact on the ball. It then fell nicely to Akachukwu but was well blocked as the midfielder went to pull the trigger.

But Irish hearts were broken when they suffered a quickfire double blow with 20-minutes remaining. Firstly, Pau Prim took advantage of hesitancy in the Irish defence tried to build out from the back. The Spain skipper drove into the area before laying it on a plate for another Barcelona starlet Marc Guiu to tap home his fourth of the tournament.

Two minutes later, Yamal made it three when he cut inside from the right wing onto his left foot and hit a great strike into the far bottom corner.

The result ended Ireland's dream of a semi-final spot and to compound the hurt France's late winner against also meant they missed out on a World Cup Play-Off game.

Speaking after the game Head Coach Colin O’Brien said: “I'm immensely proud of my players.

"We come here off the back of two qualifying campaigns and get out of a tricky group after a tough opener and pair ourselves against a top nation in world football. Even at youth level they're on a different level.

"However we competed, we tried to stay in the game but I couldn't ask any more of them and when they reflect on it they'll realise they've done theirselves, their family and their nation proud."

Ireland: Healy, Babb, Turley, Grante, O’Sullivan (Solanke, 89’), Kehir, McGrath, Akachukwu, Orazi (Okosun, 73’), Razi (Moore, 73’), Melia (Murray, 89’)

Spain: Jimenez (Arbol, 89’), Merino (Fort, 62’), J. Martin, Cubarsi, Munoz, Hernandez, Prim, Granados (Martinez, 89’), Yamal (Castell, 89’), Guiu, (Rajado, 80’), Fernandez

Referee: Miloš Milanović (Serbian)

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FAI080-139 WNT Two Match Pack Ireland v Sweden Website 360x275.png

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