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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

O'Neill and Keane watch on as Ireland U21 side's 100% qualifying record comes to an end

Noel King’s side ultimately had to settle for a point against Norway at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

Ireland's management team Steve Walford, Steve Guppy, Roy Keane, Martin O'Neill and Dan Horan in the crowd at Tallaght.
Ireland's management team Steve Walford, Steve Guppy, Roy Keane, Martin O'Neill and Dan Horan in the crowd at Tallaght.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE IRELAND U21S’ 100% record in Euros qualifying came to an end following wins in their opening two games, as they drew 0-0 with Norway at Tallaght Stadium this evening.

The senior Irish management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane watched on, as Ireland showed plenty of endeavour but a lack of end product in a closely fought affair.

Ryan Manning and Reece Grego-Cox both came close to scoring a second-half winner, while Ronan Curtis was unlucky to be denied a penalty shortly thereafter.

Norway also could have won it, with Martin Odegaard and Morten Thorsby both failing to hit an elusive opening goal.

Ireland had plenty of possession and territory, but struggled to create chances and failed to register a shot on target until the 62nd minute.

Ireland panel Ireland's starting line-up. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Manning, Grego-Cox and Ronan Curtis were all guilty of misplacing passes, as Ireland’s decision-making in the final third let them down in promising situations in the opening half.

Grego-Cox had little service up front, as Curtis, Danny Kane and Henry Charsley all added to the sense of frustration, as they overhit crosses.

Norway, meanwhile, enjoyed less of the ball, but looked more threatening going forward.

An inventive flicked pass from Henrik Bjordal put through Morten Thorsby, with the latter forcing a save via the legs of Kieran O’Hara.

On the brink of half-time, man-of-the-match Josh Cullen made a great sliding tackle to deny Thorsby, stopping him from pulling the trigger on the edge of the box after a swift Norwegian counter-attack.

Shortly thereafter, Odegaard — the 18-year-old Real Madrid starlet currently on loan at Heerenveen — came close to breaking the deadlock.

Joshua Cullen with Martin Odegaard Ireland captain Josh Cullen and Martin Odegaard. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

He linked up well with Julian Ryerson down the right, but he was denied when through on goal, as Kieran O’Hara got down well to make the block.

Norway almost opened the scoring moments into the second half, as a Dennis Torset Johnsen cross-shot hit the top of the crossbar.

On the 57 minutes, the visitors again threatened. Ireland were left exposed on the counter, as Johnsen played through Odegaard, but Shaun Donnellan recovered well to make a perfectly timed tackle to prevent the striker getting a shot away.

Norway grew increasingly dominant as the second half wore on, though Ireland went close with 20 minutes remaining, as Rossbach failed to claim Corey Whelan’s flighted free kick, before the visitors nervously cleared their lines.

Leif Gunnar Smerud’s side went close to grabbing a winner moments later, as a Henrik Bjordal cross deflected narrowly wide off Declan Rice.

A good spell for Ireland followed thereafter. Ryan Manning’s powerful free kick deflected fortuitously into Rossbach’s arms, before the hosts had strong claims for a penalty waved away, after Curtis appeared to be dragged back in the box by Andreas Hanche-Olsen.

With 10 minutes remaining, Kane forced a good save from the keeper from Manning’s cross, before Grego-Cox hit the rebound frustratingly wide.

Reece Grego-Cox with Sondre Rossbach Reece Grego-Cox goes close. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Norway threatened to claim a winner on 86 minutes, as Sander Svenden’s cross fell to Thorsby, but the winger snatched at the half chance.

The result was a fair reflection of the game ultimately, however, as both sides cancelled each other out.

Ireland: Kieran O’Hara; Danny Kane, Corey Whelan, Shaun Donnellan, Ryan Sweeney; Ronan Curtis, Josh Cullen, Declan Rice, Henry Charsley; Ryan Manning (Ronan 88), Reece Grego-Cox.

Subs: Liam Bossin, Joseph Quigley, Liam Kinsella, Connor Ronan, Conor Shaugnessy, Jake Mulraney, Ryan Delaney.

Norway: Sondre Rossbach; Andreas Hanche-Olsen, Kristoffer Ajer, Ulrik Jenssen, Birk Risa; Mathias Normann (Johnsen 6) (Svendsen 79), Julian Ryerson, Iver Fossum, Morten Thorsby; Henrik Bjordal, Martin Odegaard.

Subs: Amund Wichne, Erlend Reitan, Frederik Pallesen Knudsen, Dennis Torset Johnsen, Rafik Zekhnini, Sander Svendsen.

Referee: Luis Miguel Branco Godinho (Portugal).

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Paul Fennessy

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