Penalty heartbreak for Ireland U21s as Israel advance to European Championship finals

Jim Crawford’s side lost 3-1 on penalties after their second leg play-off ended goalless in Tel Aviv.

Ireland’s Aaron Connolly after the game.
Ireland’s Aaron Connolly after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Israel U21s 0

Republic of Ireland U21s 0

(1-1 aggregate, Israel win 3-1 on penalties)

THE IRELAND U21s’ bid to make history came to an end in heartbreaking fashion as they were beaten on penalties by Israel in the second leg of their European U21 Championship play-off.

Jim Crawford’s side went to Tel Aviv looking to become the first Ireland U21s team to qualify for a major tournament, having secured a 1-1 draw against Israel in last week’s first leg at Tallaght Stadium.

Spending large periods of tonight’s game without seeing much of the ball, Crawford’s side delivered a disciplined, hard-working performance at the Bloomfield Stadium, their efforts carrying them all the way through to penalties on a night where scoring opportunites were few and far between, the game still scoreless after a tense 120-minute encounter at the Bloomfield Stadium.

But it wasn’t to be for Ireland as Tyreik Wright, Evan Ferguson and Dawson Devoy all saw their efforts in the shootout saved by Israel goalkeeper Daniel Peretz.

Crawford made two changes to his starting team from Friday’s first leg clash in Tallaght, with Ross Tierney and Andy Lyons coming in for Wright and Ferguson.

Ferguson’s absence from the starting XI was a significant blow, the goalscorer in Tallaght only fit enough to start on the bench due to an ankle injury.

Israel on the other hand were able to considerably bolster their squad, calling in a number of senior internationals for today’s return leg.

It was no surprise to see the home side enjoy most of the possession in the opening minutes, and Ireland goalkeeper Brian Maher was soon being put to the test, racing out to compete with Israel’s Idan Gorno and handling the ball outside of the box. It left Maher with a yellow card to his name and Israel with a free-kick in a promising position, but Joe Redmond was able to flick the resulting cross away to safety.

The home side had another opportunity soon after, Ido Shahar flashing a shot from distance over the crossbar under good pressure from Joe Hodge, who was looking to build on his impressive debut for the U21 side last week.

It was Hodge who had Ireland’s first effort at goal, the Wolves player snapping a shot over the bar from the edge of the box on 15 minutes following good work down the right by Ross Tierney and Will Smallbone.

At the other end Ireland were doing a solid job of frustrating the hosts during a cagey first half, keeping their shape and discipline as Israel struggled to break through.

Israel started to apply more pressure. Just after the half hour mark Abada slide a ball in behind Eiran Cashin for Idan Gorno to chase, but Maher got down well to flick the shot out for a corner. 

They came again, Oscar Gloukh finding a rare pocket of space only to flash his effort the wrong side of the post. Eden Karzev was next up, his long-range shot flying narrowly wide of the top corner. 

Ireland striker Aaron Connolly was beginning to cut a frustrated figure, throwing his hands to the sky after another run in behind the Israel defence went unrewarded.

hisham-layous-and-aaron-connolly Aaron Connolly battles for possession with Israel’s Hisham Layous. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Then another let off for Ireland. Conor Coventry lost the ball in a dangerous position and Abada was sent through on goal. His low shot was well-saved by Maher, but the offside flag had been raised just before he let fly. Replays showed Abada was onside. 

It was the last notable action of a tense opening 45 minutes in which Israel had dominated possession and chances. A massive second period lay ahead in the 28C Israeli heat.

Ireland made a bright start to the second half as Connolly got his first real sight at goal, running at his man before bending a shot just wide of the right-hand post. 

The excellent Tierney then won a free kick just inside the Israel half. Smallbone clipped a ball to the edge of the box and Cashin was on hand to head it back inside. Israel only managed to half-clear the danger, and Coventry saw his first-time shot blocked by an Israel defender.

Just as Ireland were growing into the game, Israel were handed a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Cashin intercepted a ball into the Ireland box but only chested it out to the edge of the D, where Abada was ready to strike. Maher saved but the ball fell right at the feet of Gorno, yet with the goal gaping he somehow failed to hit the target.

Abada was proving a handful and had another chance to give his side the lead soon after, but meeting a low cross into the box, he failed to make a proper connection and saw his shot blocked by Redmond.

Crawford sent Devoy in for Hodge, and the former Bohemians man managed to inject some pace into Ireland’s play before arrowing a good ball in the direction of Connolly, whose header glanced wide. 

Ireland were enjoying a good spell of possession as the game entered the final 10 minutes, but with little reward. Smallbone found Andy Lyons in space inside the box, but his shot curled over before Maher was then called upon again to touch Abada’s latest effort into the side netting.

eden-karzev-and-william-smallbone Will Smallbone takes on Eden Karzev. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The game was beginning to open up, and Israel goalkeeper Daniel Peretz did well to get down and get a hand to a fizzed shot from Finn Azaz, another substitute who was adding energy to Ireland’s play, while Israel were looking increasingly heavy-legged.

A loose Tyreik Wright pass from a Smallbone free allowed Israel break forward but a well-timed tackle from Lee O’Connor killed the danger.

Smallbone went route one with Ireland’s next free but Israel won possession and launched another counter, with O’Connor again the man diving in with the all-important tackle as the game was sent to extra-time. 

With temperatures still in the high 20s, the pace and quality of the game notably dropped, both teams become increasingly loose in their play as the first half of extra time played out with little incident of note.

With just 15 minutes separating the two sides from a penalty shootout, Crawford turned to his bench again, sending in Oli O’Neill and last week’s hero, Ferguson, for Smallbone and Connolly.

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Zohar Zasno finally injected some life into proceedings by cutting past Wright, who was having a tough night in defence, but the Israel attacker couldn’t find a teammate inside the box.

To penalties. 

Israel won the toss but Ireland went first, captain Conor Coventry cooly slotting the ball into the bottom corner. Maher then got a hand to Eden Karzev’s low effort, but couldn’t stop the ball squeezing past. 

Wright was next up for Ireland and saw his shot comfortably save by Peretz, who then took the next spot-kick to put the hosts 2-1 up on penalties.

Ireland’s third penalty-taker was Ferguson, and the substitute saw his drilled effort down the middle saved by Peretz. Israel captain Gil Cohen handed Ireland a lifeline by striking the post.

Ireland missed their third straight penalty when Peretz got down low to deny Devoy.

It left Osher Davida with the opportunity to win it for Israel, and the Standard Liège man made no mistake as Ireland’s Euro 2023 dream ended in heartbreak. 

Israel U21: Daniel Peretz; Ziv Morgan, Roy Herman (Zohar Zasno, 74), Gil Cohen (captain), Doron Leidner (Hisham Layous, 62); Noam Gil Melamud, Ido Shahar (Mohammad Kanaan, 62), Eden Karzev; Oscar Gloukh (Yoav Hofmeister, 97), Liel Abada (Adir Levi, 97), Idan Gorno (Osher Davida, 70).

Substitutes not used: Omer Niron, Karm Jaber, Itai Ben Shabat.

Booked: Shahar 43.

Republic of Ireland U21: Brian Maher; Lee O’Connor, Joe Redmond, Jake O’Brien, Eiran Cashin (Sean Roughan, 91), Andy Lyons (Tyreik Wright, 84); Will Smallbone (Oliver O’Neill 105), Joe Hodge (Dawson Devoy, 59); Conor Coventry (captain); Ross Tierney (Finn Azaz, 59); Aaron Connolly (Evan Ferguson, 105).

Substitutes not used: David Odumosu, Mipo Odubeko, Festy Ebosele.

Booked: Maher 8, Devoy 90+4.

Referee: Nathan Verboomen (BEL)

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