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Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO Ireland's Colm Whelan and Nicolo Rovella of Italy.
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'They’ve a lot of players in Serie A' - Italy and their €18 million starlet light up Tallaght
Nicolò Rovella was among the standout players as Ireland went down 2-0.

JIM CRAWFORD admitted Ireland had their work cut out against a “really good team” as they were beaten 2-0 by Italy at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.

The visitors’ talent shone through, as they restricted Ireland to a couple of chances, controlling large parts of the game and registering two clinically taken goals.

Nicolò Rovella, who Juventus bought from Genoa for €18 million was among the standout players, with his superb balance, eye for a pass and footballing intelligence obvious for all to see.

Bolonga winger Emanuel Vignato was also seriously impressive, ensuring it was a difficult evening for Ireland right-back with his pace and trickery.

Raoul Bellanova — a right-back at Cagliari, on loan from Bordeaux — was a regular thorn in the Irish side with his energy and penetrating runs down the hosts’ left flank.

Centre-back Matteo Lovato — another key player who featured for Atalanta in their recent Champions League match away to Man United — had to go off injured in the first half. But Lorenzo Pirola, a 19-year-old Inter Milan defender currently on loan at Monza, proved a capable deputy.

Crawford afterwards acknowledged the difference in levels the Italians play at compared to some of their Irish counterparts.

“They’ve a lot of players in Serie A. They’re learning and developing as young as they are from playing every week.

“The big striker [Lorenzo Lucca] is at Pisa in Serie B. [Lorenzo] Colombo wide right too. They’re playing every week, not a half an hour here and 45 there. They’re playing 90 minutes.

“They’re a top team, what they’re really good is they’ll draw you in and get behind you, they’ll give and go. The boys just had to be a little bit more clever in those situations, whether they stepped and blocked them.

“They caused us a couple of problems on that side with Tyreik [Wright] and Joel [Bagan] but we managed to get it under control. What they do is their full-backs bomb on and get extra players over here to create all sorts of numbers that can go against you. 

“[The experience is] going to stand to them. We knew what was ahead of us and so did the players. We’ve just got to get over it.”

On his general assessment of the game, the Irish boss added: “We conceded a goal from an unfortunate slip. Then it’s important to stay in the game. In fairness to the boys, we kept our shape against a really good team.

“Then, key moments in any game, we had a great opportunity at the end there. We missed it, that could have been a fantastic equaliser for us but it wasn’t to be and then we got caught with a counter-attack, which was disappointing again.

“I thought in the first half we were certainly in the game. We had a lot of decent performances. We asked the boys to give everything they had, which they did, but they’re a decent team.

“As soon as [a late chance] landed to Rossi [Tierney], I would have backed him to score because he’s a habit of doing that sort of stuff.”

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And while praising his side’s work rate, Crawford feels they need to be better in the final third.

“Certainly, when we get into the top end of the pitch we could be more clinical. Whether it’s crosses or opportunities like that.”

Ireland next face Sweden in a game that they must win to retain any faint hope of qualification, as they currently trail the group leaders, who beat Bosnia 4-0 on Friday, by seven points.

“Where does that leave us? With a massive game on Tuesday because the others won again. The other two are creating a huge gap. I feel it’s win or bust on Tuesday. We have to. There are no two ways about it. 

“Sweden are another really good team. They play a lot differently to Italy, so we’ve work to do before Tuesday.

“Anthony Elanga from Manchester United. He plays wide left and is quick. I’m sure he’ll start Tuesday so we’ll have to find a way of keeping him quiet. He is a big threat.

“They’ve another boy up top, Amin Sarr. Another quick one. It’s another challenge.”

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