Ireland's Andrew Moran celebrates scoring. Evan Treacy/INPHO
Late Drama

Brighton teenager stars as 96th-minute goal sees Ireland beat Turkey

Andrew Moran impressed as Jim Crawford’s side opened their campaign with a thrilling win.

Ireland 3 

Turkey 2 

Stephen Barry reports from Turner’s Cross

IRELAND U21S completed a sensational late comeback to dumbfound Turkey and get their European qualifying campaign off to a winning start.

It was Jim Crawford’s substitutions that sealed the deal, with Zak Gilsenan’s 87th-minute penalty bringing the hosts level before Aidomo Emakhu found the winner six minutes into added time.

It was a perfect finish to Ireland’s first competitive match back at Turner’s Cross in 14 years, overcoming a disallowed goal and some Turkish gamesmanship to get the three points in front of 3,754 fans.

Their near-miss in the last campaign, losing a play-off on penalties to Israel, saw them upgraded to second seeds but the draw hadn’t been any kinder, pairing them against Italy (again), Norway, and the Turks.

They have immediately gained ground on the top-seeded Italians, though, after they dropped points in a scoreless draw away to Latvia.

The senior side’s loss to France had a knock-on effect on Crawford’s U21s as Stephen Kenny called up striker Sinclair Armstrong to help replace Evan Ferguson and Will Keane. But in captain Andrew Moran, Gilsenan, and Emakhu, they had the firepower to overcome his absence.

They started the stronger and troubled Turkey from the off, almost opening the scoring in the fifth minute. Seán Roughan’s corner was met by Sam Curtis but his powerful header was blocked on the line.

Juventus winger Kenan Yildiz, given his Serie A debut last month, had been identified as Turkey’s dangerman but his first burst forward was ended by hometown hero Matt Healy. The Corkman got back to his feet to send Johnny Kenny in at the other end but his heavy touch allowed keeper Dogan Alemdar to steal the ball away.

The Turkish number one required treatment but after the stoppage, his long ball brought about their breakthrough. Erencan Yardimci picked up the flick on and was brought down by Anselmo Garcia McNulty.

Despite a long delay, Yildiz’s composed spot-kick sent Josh Keeley the wrong way.

That seemed to knock Irish confidence, although Roughan had an opportunity to level when the Turkish keeper flapped at a Moran cross. His finish, however, was blazed over.

All of the other chances were at the opposite end. Keeley was worried by an acrobatic Ravil Tagir effort that floated wide, Seán Grehan burst a gut to block Enis Destan, and Yildiz hit the roof of the Shed End when miscuing another fine opportunity.

Half-time allowed Crawford to settle his troops and their higher tempo began to force errors.

Roughan’s range of passing and crosses gave Ireland their route back in. He sent Kenny in behind to test the keeper and his subsequent corner was headed over by Garcia McNulty.

That brought the crowd alive and his next corner would deliver the equaliser. Curtis’s header was half cleared but Moran controlled and without letting the ball drop, dispatched a stinging volley to the top corner.

Moran was full of running now and he looked to have given Ireland the lead three minutes later. The referee called play back, however, for a foul that looked soft.

Turkish keeper Alemdar again required treatment which broke Irish momentum. The long stoppage saw Yildiz withdrawn and was once again followed by a breakaway goal.

Replacement Cihan Canak announced his arrival almost immediately with a vicious volley low into the bottom corner to restore their lead.

But Moran, dubbed the ‘Irish Phil Foden’ by a former coach at Brighton, brilliantly dribbled his way past the Turkish defence before being brought down. 

His Blackburn Rovers teammate Gilsenan, born in Australia to Irish parents and brought to Europe by Barcelona, stepped up to blast a quality penalty into the corner.

They almost snatched it when Bosun Lawal powered a header towards the net but Alemdar saved superbly.

However, he could do nothing about Emakhu’s inch-perfect finish after a brilliant run and cross by another sub in Tony Spingett.

Roughan and a Turkish mentor were sent off amid the celebration in the dugouts as Ireland left the happier.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Josh Keeley; Sam Curtis, Bosun Lawal, Anselmo Garcia MacNulty, Seán Roughan (James Furlong 90+4); Matt Healy, Seán Grehan (Tony Springett 84), Baba Adeeko; Adam Murphy (Zak Gilsenan 72), Johnny Kenny (Aidomo Emakhu 72), Andrew Moran.

TURKEY: Dogan Alemdar; Ugur Kaan Yildiz, Serdar Saatci (Emin Bayram 72), Ravil Tagir, Yasin Ozcan; Aksel Baran Potur, Bartug Elmaz (Metehan Baltaci 81), Cem Turkmen, Kenan Yildiz (Cihan Canak 71); Erencan Yardimci, Enis Destan.

Referee: J Jaanovits (EST).

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