The Republic of Ireland U-21’s fell to defeat to their Portuguese counterparts on a difficult night in Oriel Park.
In a match played Baltic conditions, the Iberian outfit prevailed thanks to a wonderful goal from Francisco Junior just before the quarter hour and an own goal by Aiden O’Brien just after half-time. Matt Doherty gave the young Irish some hope with 20 minutes remaining as he pulled one back but it wasn’t enough.
It was the visitors who started brightly and registered their first effort on goal within the first 10 minutes as Luis Gustavo shot just wide of Sean McDermott’s left hand post from distance. Within minutes though, they did take the lead and what a goal it was too. After capitalising on some poor passing from the hosts, Adair ran towards goal but his run was halted by Shane Duffy who could only clear to Francisco Junior. He caught the ball beautifully first time and it rifled into the roof of the net.
That appeared to settle the Portuguese down and they began to control the game. Sean Murray probed and he had a few dangerous crosses go just wide as the hosts appeared to struggle with the difficult conditions early on.
Luis Gustavo had a shot blocked by Anthony O’Connor just before the half hour mark before Luis Silva almost doubled Portugal’s lead when his half volley was well saved by McDermott in the Dundalk goal from 12 yards.
As conditions began to improve, so did the young boys in green. Captain Shane Duffy headed a Murray corner wide and then Murray had the first shot on target for Ireland as his half-volley from 20 yards flew into the arms of Luis Ribeiro in the Portugal goal.
The midfielder was growing in confidence and just before the break his cross swept across the 6 yard box with Aiden O’Brien inches away from connecting.
Into the second half, Ireland, after making a flurry of changes, started the brighter but were unable to convert their possession and were made pay on 57 minutes. After Aaron McCarey pushed away Luis Gustavo’s shot from the right, substitute Amorim took the corner and it was glanced to his own net by Aiden O’Brien to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
With conditions worsening again, Portugal appeared comfortable on the ball but with 20 minutes left on the clock, Ireland grabbed a lifeline. After a short spell of pressure, they forced a corner.
Murray once again provided the cross and the Watford player’s pin point delivery found the head of Matt Doherty and he made no mistake from 6 yards out.
Substitute Graham Burke then had snatched at a loose ball from 8 yards but he couldn’t find the target with just over 10 minutes to go. Pipo had an effort easily saved by McCarey late on.
The Portuguese head home with a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory.
Ireland U-21: Sean McDermott(Aaron McCarey 46); Matt Doherty(Cian Bolger 72), Anthony O’Connor, Shane Duffy(Joe Shaughnessy 46), Sean McGinty(Carl McHugh 46); Sean Murray(Graham Burke 72)Callum Reilly(Chris Forrester 46), Kane Ferdinand(John O’Sullivan 46), Samir Carruthers, Frankie Sutherland(Anthony Forde 46); Aiden O’Brien.
Subs not used: None
Bookings: Kane Ferdinand (23), John O’Sullivan(80)
Portugal U-21: Luis Ribeiro(Joao Pinto 46); Joao Amorim(Frederico Venancio 88), Miguel Lourenco, Luis Martins, Josue; Luis Gustavo, Luis Silva(Vitinha 88), Sergio Oliveira(Amorim 50), Francisco Junior(Vitor Goncalves 64), Aldair(Rui Coentrao 64); Joao Carvalho(Pipo 46)
Subs not used: David Bruno, Joao Beirao, Daniel Fernandes
Bookings: Francisco Junior (44), Vitor Goncalves(69)
Referee: Mark Whitby (Wales)
Attendance: 500 (estimate)
Extratime.ie man of the match: Francisco Junior