Republic of Ireland Under-19s made it two wins from two in the UEFA European Under-19 Championships Elite Round after a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan in Krasnodar, Russia.
Goals from Tyreik Wright, Jason Knight and captain Jonathan Afolabi proved enough for Tom Mohan’s side, as the team moved one step closer to this July’s Finals Tournament in Armenia.
Wright gave Ireland the lead just before the break. His initial header from a corner was blocked, but Wright slotted home the rebound to give Ireland the lead.
Mohan’s side had the chance to double the lead after the break, but Will Smallbone’s penalty hit the crossbar. Ireland did though double their lead on the hour mark, when Knight’s shot beat Azerbaijani goalkeeper Nijat Mehbaliyev.
Azerbaijan pulled a goal back with 20-minutes left when Kamran Guliyev scored from close range, after Brian Maher saved Turan Valizada’s penalty.
The three points were assured in the final five-minutes when Afolabi took advantage of some slack defending to cooly slot the ball home.
Speaking after the match, Head Coach Mohan was impressed with his side’s grit throughout the game.
“It was a different game to the win against Romania. Azerbaijan were very difficult to break down. We have seven Under-18s and one Under-17 player in the squad today. For such young players, they showed great composure”, Mohan said.
“Russia are our next opponents. The focus is now on them getting recovered and re-energised. It was a tough, hard, bruising encounter today. The lads showed a lot of character.”
Ireland conclude their campaign on Tuesday afternoon against Russia, knowing a draw may be enough to qualify for Armenia in July.
Republic of Ireland: Brian Maher; Andy Lyons, Oisin McEntee, Jack James (Mark McGuinness 90+1), Kameron Ledwidge; Luca Connell (Niall Morahan 90+3), Will Smallbone (Conor Grant 90+1), Jason Knight; Tyreik Wright (Ali Reghba 79), Jonathan Afolabi, Will Ferry (Festy Ebosele 90+3)
Azerbaijan: Nijat Mehbaliyev; Rauf Huseynli (90+2), Ibragim Huseinov, Elnur Ibragimov, Vusal Masimov; Tural Bayramov (Musa Gurbanli 66), Turan Valizada, Shakir Seyidov, Kamran Guliyev (Murad Mahmudov 78); Serhat Tasdemir (Rustam Nuruyev 66); Emil Gasimov (Elvin Jafarguliyev 46)
Republic of Ireland Under-19 Squad
Goalkeepers: Brian Maher (St Patrick’s Athletic), George McMahon (Burnley)
Defenders: Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Tom Gaston (Bordeaux), Mark McGuinness (Arsenal), Oisin McEntee (Newcastle United), Jack James (Luton Town), Kameron Ledwidge (Southampton)
Midfielders: Niall Morahan (Sligo Rovers), Aaron Bolger (Shamrock Rovers), Jason Knight (Derby County), Luca Connell (Bolton Wanderers), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Conor Grant (Sheffield Wednesday), Richie O’Farrell (UCD)
Forwards: Ali Reghba (Bohemians), Will Ferry (Southampton), Festy Ebosele (Derby County), Tyriek Wright (Aston Villa), Jonathan Afolabi (Southampton)
2019 UEFA European Under-19 Championship – Elite Round Qualifiers
March 20: Republic of Ireland 5-0 Romania
March 23: Republic of Ireland 3-1 Azerbaijan
March 26: Republic of Ireland v Russia, FC Krasnodar Academy Stadium, KO 17:00 (14:00 Irish Time)