Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# heavy blow
Irish go down to stylish Italian outfit as Euro dream takes a substantial hit
Noel King’s side face a massive game against Slovenia in four days time.

Republic of Ireland 1

Italy 4

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND Under-21 side were well beaten by a stylish and ruthless Italian outfit at Waterford’s RSC as their hopes of qualification for next summer’s European Championship in Poland suffered a substantial setback.

Noel King’s charges have now suffered three successive defeats and remain in fourth place in Group 2.

The opening period provided plenty of chances for both sides.

The guests should’ve been in front after just eight minutes when Valerio Rosseti failed to connect properly with a cross from the right side and the ball veered harmlessly wide.

But the response from the hosts was impressive.

Martin Keown and Martin O'Neill Cathal Noonan / INPHO Martin Keown, whose son Niall started for the Irish side, exchanges pleasantries with Martin O'Neill. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Brian Lenihan’s cross picked out the head of Kevin O’Connor who failed to hit the target. Moments later, an even better opportunity fell the way of the Irish though Callum O’Dowda and Henry Charsley both saw their close-range efforts blocked by Gianluigi Donnarumma, the 17-year-old who’s currently the undisputed first-choice at AC Milan.

With 16 minutes gone, the home side did hit the front though there was a large degree of good fortune about it.

The impressive Jack Byrne whipped in a low free-kick from the left wing and Rosseti could only slice his attempted clearance beyond Donnarumma and into the far corner.

Republic of Ireland players celebrate the opening goal Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

O’Dowda had a great chance to double the lead minutes later but he pulled his left-foot strike just wide of the far post after Conor Wilkinson’s mis-kick ran perfectly for him.

And they were made pay for their profligacy in front of goal.

Just before the half hour, Italy were level when Gaetano Monachello curled in a superb cross from the right and Marco Benassi slid home a neat volley.

On 36 minutes, they took the lead and it was something similar as Monachello turned provider again. This time he chased a ball into the right channel and somehow, just as it looked like it would bounce out of play, he hooked an excellent delivery across the area where Rosseti atoned for his earlier error and nodded home.

There seemed to be some heavy legs on the Irish side and when Harry Charsley gave away a cheap free-kick approaching the hour mark, Antonio Barreca sent in a dangerous ball and Alessio Romagnoli expertly swept to the net.

A dejected Jack Byrne Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

As time ticked on, Ireland rallied and went close through Wilkinson while Darragh Lenihan saw his header superbly saved by Donnarumma after Byrne’s teasing set-piece.

With less than ten minutes to go though, Ireland shipped a fourth when Romagnoli’s effort struck the inside of Rogers’ upright and Lenihan could only help the loose ball into the net.

The Irish now face a crucial qualifier in Slovenia in four days time.

Republic of Ireland: Rogers; B Lenihan, Connors, Rea, Keown, D Lenihan (c), Charsley (Miele, 72′), O’Connor (Hoare, 72′), Wilkinson, J. Byrne (Maguire, 84′), O’Dowda.

Italy: Donnarumma; Conti, Barreca, Mandragora, Caldara, Romagnoli, Cataldi, Benassi (c), Rosseti, Berardi, Monachello (Ricci, 85′).

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