Super strike from Man City midfielder earns Ireland U19s a draw in Euros opener

16-year-old Joe Hodge grabbed a late equaliser after Erik Botheim had given Norway an early lead.

inpho_01547070 Ireland goalscorer Joe Hodge (file pic). Source: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Republic of Ireland 1
Norway 1

PROMISING MIDFIELDER JOE Hodge rescued a point for the Republic of Ireland today in their opening game at the U19 European Championship finals in Armenia.

The 16-year-old, who plays his club football with Manchester City, scored a superb equaliser with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining to earn a point for Tom Mohan’s side against Norway in sweltering heat at the FFA Academy Stadium.

Hodge’s first-time strike from outside the box nestled in the bottom corner of Kristoffer Klaesson’s goal, cancelling out Erik Botheim’s early opener for the Norwegians.

Ireland’s next outing is against France on Thursday, before they conclude their Group B campaign on Sunday against Czech Republic. The top two teams in each of the two groups will advance to the semi-finals, with the French and the Czechs due to kick off their respective bids for success when they face each other in Yerevan this evening.

Tom Mohan’s youngsters were the only team to win all six of their qualifying games en route to Armenia. However, because the tournament is taking place outside of a designated international window, clubs were not obliged to release their players. Therefore, 13 of the 28 Irish players used in qualifying are absent.

Ireland were slow out of the traps and Norway capitalised, hitting the front in the eighth minute. Halldor Stenevik’s deep cross from the right was sent back across the face of goal by Edvard Tagseth, and Botheim was on hand to slot the ball home from close range.

Ireland responded well to going behind but the game had entered its 81st minute by the time they finally got back on level terms. Ali Reghba, who had been a threat all evening, saw his cross cleared by Colin Rosler. However, the ball fell kindly for Hodge, who finished emphatically.

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It was the perfect way for the English-born youngster to mark his debut at U19 level. Hodge had been one of Ireland’s best performers at the recent U17 European Championship finals on home soil, and he again looked impressive today.

Ireland were afforded a couple of late let-offs as Norway sought to regain the lead. Oisin McEntee made a crucial intervention to deny Noah Jean Holm, before substitute Mikael Ugland saw his long-range strike hit the post, much to Tom Mohan’s relief.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Brian Maher; Andy Lyons, Oisin McEntee, Mark McGuinness, Jack James (Matt Everitt, 61); Lee O’Connor, Joe Hodge; Ali Reghba, Brandon Kavanagh, Kameron Ledwidge (Andrew Omobamidele, 90); Jonathan Afolabi.

NORWAY: Kristoffer Klaesson; Jonas Tillung Fredriksen, Colin Rosler, Erik Sandberg; Halldor Stenevik (Marcus Pedersen, 90), Markus Solbakken (Mikael Ugland, 79), Johan Hove, Joshua Kitolano, Edvard Tagseth; Jørgen Larsen, Erik Botheim (Noah Jean Holm 65).

Referee: Nikola Dabanovic (Montenegro).

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