Evan Ferguson header boosts Ireland's playoff hopes in Tallaght

10-man Israel hung on for a 1-1 draw.

Evan Ferguson scores a goal.
Evan Ferguson scores a goal.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

Ireland U21s 1

Israel U21s 1

EVAN FERGUSON’S second-half header boosted Ireland’s Euro U21 playoff hopes as they drew 1-1 with Israel this evening.

The Brighton striker’s first goal for his country at U21 level cancelled out Idan Gorno’s opener just before half-time.

Ireland pressed for a late winner after Stav Lemkin was sent off, having stopped man-of-the-match Aaron Connolly from running through on goal, but the visitors held on for a draw.

Ahead of kick-off, Jim Crawford switched the system from the 4-2-3-1 Ireland used for the majority of their qualifying campaign.

The hosts instead began with a 5-3-2. Joe Redmond and Joe Hodge were handed debuts at U21 level while Aaron Connolly, capped eight times by the senior side, made his first appearance for the U21s since the 3-1 defeat of Sweden three years ago

Joel Bagan, Mark McGuinness, Gavin Kilkenny and Liam Kerrigan all missed out through injury, having started the last match — a disappointing 4-1 defeat by Italy in June

In addition to the aforementioned trio, Crystal Palace defender Jake O’Brien — currently on loan in the Belgian second tier with RWD Molenbeek — came into the side in place of McGuinness.

Meanwhile, Israel, who sealed their place in the playoffs last summer with a comfortable 2-0 win over San Marino, set up with a 4-5-1 formation.

Among their highly touted youngsters to feature was Oscar Gloukh, who played for his country’s U19s side in the summer when they made it all the way to the final of the European Championships before being beaten by England in extra time, while defender El Yam Kancepolsky was also among those involved at that tournament.

Standard Liege’s Osher Davida and Mohammad Kanaan of FC Ashdod were others namechecked as players to watch by Crawford in the pre-match press conference.

It was the visitors that had the better start, pinning Ireland back into their own half and controlling the play amid a cagey opening.

The hosts gradually came more into, though, and had the first big chance of the match in the 15th minute — Conor Coventry slipped Connolly through on goal but the forward’s shot from a tight angle was tipped onto the post by goalkeeper David Peretz 

Moments later, it was the visitors’ turn to threaten, as Kanaan’s effort from distance flew just over. 

Connolly went close again shortly thereafter. Lee O’Connor found the Venezia loanee with a low cross, but his shot on the turn crept just wide.

As the half progressed, Ireland were offering more in attack and looking the most likely to break the deadlock, with Connolly often to the fore in their more promising attacking moments.

However, Israel came close just after the hour mark, with Brian Maher needing to tip Roi Herman’s cross over the bar.

As half-time approached, Ferguson laid it to Will Smallbone on the edge of the area, and the Stoke loanee’s powerful first-time effort was parried over for a corner by Peretz.

Down the other end, Maher got down low to keep out Gloukh’s free kick from about 30 yards out.

The goalkeeper had to be alert again moments later, parrying away Kanaan’s effort.

Nonetheless, from the ensuing corner, the Derry stopper came and failed to claim Davida’s ball into the box and Gorno was on hand to head into the empty net as Israel struck the first significant blow in this tie.

Ireland took a while to get going in the second half, but went close when Eiran Cashin headed over Tyreik Wright’s free kick.

Moments later, Will Smallbone put in a dangerous cross, but Aaron Connolly could not direct his header goalwards.

Smallbone was involved again just after the hour mark, as his lofted free kick from the right was headed narrowly wide by Cashin.

Ireland were not be denied a minute later, however. Wright curled in a corner and Ferguson rose highest, finding the corner with his header and leaving Peretz with no chance.

The momentum was with the Boys in Green now, and Smallbone’s cross found Connolly amid a well-worked move, but the forward could not get the necessary power or direction in his header.

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With 10 minutes remaining, Ireland thought they had a penalty. 

Lemkin tripped Connolly as he ran through on goal and was consequently sent off.

However, the referee judged the infringement to be outside the area, much to the frustration of the home crowd.

Smallbone’s ensuing free kick was comfortably saved by Peretz.

Ireland then pushed for a winner and the lively Connolly fired just over in the dying moments.

Ultimately though, the hosts had to be content with a draw that leaves it all to play for ahead of next week’s second leg in Tel Aviv.

Ireland U21s: 1. Brian Maher 2. Lee O’Connor 13. Jake O’Brien 4. Joe Redmond 5. Eiran Cashin 7. Joe Hodge (Devoy 73) 6. Conor Coventry 18. Tyreik Wright (Ebosele 83) 10. Will Smallbone 11. Aaron Connolly 19. Evan Ferguson (Odubeko 79)

Subs: 16. David Odumosu 8. Dawson Devoy 9. Joshua Kayode 14. Ollie O’Neill 15. Andy Lyons 17. Ross Tierney 20. Mipo Odubeko 21. Anselmo Garcia MacNulty 22. Festy Ebosele

Israel U21s: 1. David Peretz 3. Ziv Morgan 5. Gil Cohen 7. Osher Davida (Zasno 79) 8. Mohammad Kanaan (Layous 61) 11. Oscar Gloukh 12. El Yam Kancepolsky (Hofmeister 79) 17. Ido Shahar 19. Idan Gorno (Gil 83) 20. Stav Lemkin 22. Roi Herman (Jaber 61)

Subs: 18. Omer Yaacov Nir On 2. Karm Jaber 4. Iuval Jaber 6. Zohar Zasno 10. Stav Nachmani 14. Tay Abed Kassus 15. Yoav Hofmeister 16. Hisham Layous 21. Noam Gil Malamud

Referee: Dario Bel (Croatia)

Attendance: 6,786

About the author:

Paul Fennessy  / reports from Tallaght Stadium

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