Republic of Ireland U21 2 - 2 Italy U21Mon, Jun 04 2012
The Republic of Ireland U21s played out an enthralling 2-2 draw with group leaders Italy at The Showgrounds on Monday afternoon, closing the gap on Turkey in second place.
The Italians took the lead on just four minutes thanks to a Shane Duffy own goal and they doubled their lead after 56 minutes with a stunning strike from Ciro Immobile. The Irish were reluctant to give up however, and showed some great spirit to bring the game back to 2-2. Robbie Brady’s penalty and Greg Cunningham’s 71st minute strike meant that Noel King’s side notched another point.
Ireland started the game just three points behind second placed Turkey with three games in hand. Italy, on the other hand, were sitting pretty at the top of the table with 15 points from five games.
It took just four minutes to see the first bit of drama. Nobody likes Mondays, but it was a particularly bad one for Everton defender Duffy. The Irish defence failed to clear a corner taken by Alessandro Florenzi and it was unfortunately turned into his own net by Duffy, who had just picked up a booking one minute earlier for taking down Ciro Immobile.
West Ham target Immobile, sporting quite the haircut, was extremely lively and was causing all sorts of problems for the Irish defence, as was Newcastle’s Davide Santon.
Torquay United’s Eunan O’Kane had several fine opportunities early on but nothing concrete enough to give the boys in green a goal. The 21 year old’s low, long-range effort after 20 minutes went just wide of Francesco Bardi’s goal and failed to really trouble the Livorno keeper.
The Italians’ passing was slick but Ciro Ferrara’s men failed to bother Ian McLoughlin in goal following their opener. Duffy failed to get a strong touch on O’Kane’s free-kick just before half-time and Bardi gathered it easily.
Derby County’s Jeff Hendrick was instrumental in many of Ireland’s second-half attacks and could’ve put the home team ahead early in the second half. Arsenal’s Rhys Murphy bombed down the left and played the ball to Hendrick, who found himself right in front of the ‘keeper with the ball at his feet, but he was dispossessed by Alessandro Crescenzi.
Immobile had looked dangerous in the first-half and nothing changed in the second 45. McLoughlin stood no chance in goal as the lively attacker turned and smashed the ball past the Irish stopper to give the Italians a two goal lead.
The comeback started after 67 minutes though. Brady, who has scored in every game he’s played in at The Showgrounds, kept his record going with a well struck penalty. Mattia Destro handled in the area, conceding the kick. Just before the penalty, Brady flew down the right wing and got past Bari defender Alessandro Crescenzi in fantastic fashion but his cross was deflected for a corner.
The boys in green grew in confidence when they halved the arrears and it was soon 2-2 thanks to captain fantastic Cunningham. The former Mervue United youth player latched on to Robbie Brady’s free and the ball just rolled in to the net.
Ireland showed more urgency following their equaliser but it wasn’t enough to take all three points with them. Marco Verratti received his marching orders in the dying minutes of the game when he was harshly shown a red card for taking down Aidan White in the 92nd minute but that was too late to have any impact on the result.
Republic of Ireland: Ian McLoughlin (Aaron McCarey 60); Greg Cunningham, Niall Canavan, Shane Duffy, John Egan; Aidan White, Richie Towell, Jeff Hendrick, Eunan O’Kane; Robert Brady, Rhys Murphy (James Collins 88).
Subs not used: Ronan Murray, Samir Carruthers, Conor Clifford, Mark Connolly, Sean Murray.
Bookings: Shane Duffy(3), Rhys Murphy(55).
Sendings Off: None.
Italy: Francesco Bardi; Alessandro Crescenzi, Luca Caldirola, Marco Capuano, Davide Santon; Alessandro Florenzi, Luca Marrone, Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne; Mattia Destro (Alberto Paloschi, 74 [Simone Romagnoli, 93]), Ciro Immobile (Stephan El Shaarawy, 84).
Subs not used: Simone Colombi, Marco Crimi, Fausto Rossi, Manolo Gabbiadini.
Bookings: Luca Caldirola(43), Davide Santon(66), Mattia Destro(66).
Sendings Off: Marco Verratti.
Referee: Eli Hacmon(Israel).
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Luca Marrone