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Elbouzedi strike earns Ireland U21s victory despite O'Shea red card

Stephen Kenny’s side extended their lead at the top of Group 1 after a 1-0 win over Armenia.

The Irish players celebrate with goalscorer Zack Elbouzedi.
The Irish players celebrate with goalscorer Zack Elbouzedi.
Image: Hrach Khachatryan/INPHO

Armenia 0

Republic of Ireland 1

IRELAND TOOK ANOTHER step towards qualification for the U21 European Championships with a deserved win away to Armenia this afternoon. 

Despite dominating the game, Stephen Kenny’s side had to wait until the 63rd minute to open the scoring through Wateford winger Zack Elbouzedi, who was a threat throughout. 

Dara O’Shea, captaining the side in Yerevan, was sent off with 14 minutes remaining but the Boys in Green held out to claim all three points. 

Missing Caoimhin Kelleher, Conor Masterson, Trevor Clarke, Neil Farrugia and Michael Obafemi through injury and with captain Jayson Molumby and full-back Lee O’Connor suspended, Kenny was forced to make several changes to his side. 

O’Connor will be handed his senior international debut alongside Troy Parrott when Ireland take on New Zealand in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium tonight. Aaron Connolly would have been involved tonight too, but withdrew through a groin injury. 

The starting line-up saw debuts for 17-year-old Manchester City goalkeeper Gavan Bazunu, alonsgide defenders Nathan Collins (Stoke City), Thomas O’Connor (Southampton) and Danny McNamara (Millwall). 

West Ham striker Anthony Scully, who was called up for the first time after scoring 12 goals for the Hammers’ reserve team this season, didn’t feature in the matchday squad. 

the-ireland-team Ireland's starting line-up. Source: Hrach Khachatryan/INPHO

The away side began brightly and took control of the game from early on. However, they were unable to make their dominance count in the first half– with midfielder Jason Knight guilty of missing the best of the chances. 

Heading in at the half-time break, the teams remained scoreless but there was no need to start panicking. 

Elbouzedi was getting great joy down Ireland’s left wing, and it was the experienced 21-year-old who broke the deadlock just after the hour-mark. 

Norwich City striker Adam Idah created the opportunity — collecting the ball out wide before drilling a low cross into the danger area — and Elbouzedi arrived late to blast into the net after composing himself.

O’Shea then received his marching orders for clipping Karen Melkonyan as he ran clear towards Bazunu’s goal.

Although it looked minimal, there was contact and the West Brom defender was deemed to be the last man, so it would be hard to argue with Finnish referee Antti Munukka’s decision. 

The closing minutes saw Armenia throw men forward in the hope of equalising, but Ireland stood firm to bounce back from a disappointing 1-0 defeat away to Iceland with a win. 

stephen-kenny Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Source: Hrach Khachatryan/INPHO

Ireland are currently top of Group 1 on 13 points thanks to the result, although Iceland and Italy both have games in hand. 

Tallaght Stadium hosts their next qualifier this Tuesday evening, when Sweden will be looking to get revenge for the 3-1 loss they suffered when the sides met in Kalmr back in September. 

ARMENIA: Sevak Aslanyan, Hrachya Geghamyan, Hovhannes Nazaryan, Albert Khachumyan, Edgar Grigoryan, Karen Melkonyan, Hovhannes Harutyunyan (Aram Khamoyan 66), Armen Hovhannisyan (Edgar Movsesyan 78), Armen Nahapetyan (Abraham Portugalyan 57), Vahan Bichakhchyan, Rudik Mkrtchyan.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Gavin Bazunu, Danny McNamara, Dara O’Shea (c), Nathan Collins, Thomas O’Connor, Conor Coventry, Jason Knight, Connor Ronan (Liam Scales 77), Gavin Kilkenny (Jack Taylor 81), Zack Elbouzedi, Adam Idah (Aidan Keena 86). 

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Ben Blake

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