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Dublin: 6°C Friday 23 April 2021

Farcical own goal hands Irish U21s victory over Wales

Jim Crawford’s side were 2-1 winners in a friendly game in Wrexham this afternoon.

Jonathan Afolabi celebrates his goal.
Jonathan Afolabi celebrates his goal.
Image: Andrew Dowling/INPHO

Wales U21s 1

Republic of Ireland U21s 2

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland U21s rounded out a week-long training camp with a 2-1 friendly win over Wales in Wrexham this afternoon, coming from behind to seal the win with two goals in the space of a second-half minute. 

Joe Adams gave Wales an early lead but Ireland were much-improved in the second half, carving out a victory thanks to Jonathan Afolabi’s equaliser than a farcical Welsh own goal: Morgan Boyes misdirecting a backpass into the corner of the net. 

Jim Crawford gave U21 debuts to five players involved in the squad for the first time: defenders Andrew Omobamidele and Mason O’Malley, midfielders Conor Noss and Louie Watson and forward Alex Gilbert.

Brian Maher started in goal, with Omobamidele partnered at centre-back by Mark McGuinness, presently at Ipswich on a loan deal from Arsenal. Lee O’Connor captioned the side from right-back with O’Malley on the opposite flank. Luca Connell – called up after Conor Coventry was promoted to the senior squad – started in midfield with Noss and Watson with Will Ferry and Gilbert either side of striker Jonathan Afolabi. 

Wales took an early lead, however, when Leeds’ Niall Huggins picked out Joe Adams in the penalty area, who rifled the ball beyond Brian Maher. 

Ireland created little in the first-half as a sharp wind blew across Colliers Park in Wrexham, failing to test Wales goalkeeper Lewis Webb beyond his gathering of a Jonathan Afolabi cross. 

Led by Luca Connell in midfield, Ireland improved in the second half. Will Ferry jinked into the penalty area and saw a pull-back narrowly miss Afolabi in the penalty area, while a delightful Louie Watson pass led Lee O’Connor to drive a shot right at Wales’ replacement goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd.

Crawford introduced Gavin Kilkenny and Tyreik Wright off the bench and both contributed to Irish chances, the latter’s ending in Watson testing Shepperd from range. Wales then spurned a far easier chance, with Ryan Stirk screwing a penalty box opportunity wide of Maher’s right-hand post. 

Ireland made Wales’ profligacy pay: Conor Noss got to the byline, skipped over a couple of tackles and slid the ball across the face of the goal for Afolabi to tap in from close range. 

A minute later Ireland led in farcical circumstances: Morgan Boyes played a careless backpass much too far to the goalkeeper’s right, and the ball rolled into the bottom corner in spite of Shepperd’s despairing lunge. The camera kindly focused on Ireland’s abashed celebrations rather than linger on Boyes.

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Afolabi should have sealed the game shortly after for Ireland, planting a penalty area effort wide after a terrific Ferry pull-back. Ferry dropped to left-back following the introduction of Wright, and they linked up to super effect in the game’s final quarter.

Ireland deserved their victory on the balance of chances created, with Connell, Noss, Watson and Ferry their best performers. 

Wales U21s: Lewis Webb (Nathan Shepperd, HT); Fin Stevens, Billy-Sass Davies, Morgan Boyes, Eddy Jones; Ryan Stirk, Terry Taylor (captain) (Sam Bowen, 73′) Niall Huggins, Joe Adams  Sion Spence (Sam Pearson, 62′);, Luke Jephcott (Christian Norton, 62′)

Republic of Ireland U21s: Brian Maher; Lee O’Connor (captain), Andrew Omobamidele, Mark McGuinness, Mason O’Malley (Tyreik Wright, 70′); Luca Connell, Conor Noss, Louie Watson (Conor Grant, 73′); Alex Gilbert (Gavin Kilkenny, 70′), Jonathan Afolabi (Ethon Varian, 85′) Will Ferry

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Gavin Cooney

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