The Republic of Ireland U21 side recorded a crucial win in their European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Round game against Azerbaijan at Tallaght Stadium last night when a 96th minute goal from Shaun Donnellan gave Noel King’s side a victory.
Donnellan got on the end of Ryan Manning’s inviting free kick to scramble home a priceless winner in a game where Ireland had been frustrated by the visitors all evening.
In the opening period, Derry City attacker Ronan Curtis saw his strike on goal parried by Kamran Ibrahimov, who was in fine form throughout the match, in the Azerbaijan goal. The onrushing Reece Grego-Cox was first to the breaking ball but Ibrahimov smoothered his close range effort.
Noel King’s youngsters had a strong and energetic beginning to the second half with Jake Mulraney unlucky to see his appeals for a penalty waved away while Ryan Manning’s 25 yard free kick was brilliantly tipped over the bar by the impressive Ibrahimov.
Shaun Donnellan and Ronan Hale both saw their shots on goal blocked by last ditch defending before a free kick won when Olamide Shodipo was upended out wide saw Manning deliver for Donnellan to clinch the winning score.
Republic of Ireland U21 Head Coach Noel King said of the win:
“It was a fantastic way to win a game, in my career, I’ve never a winner like that so we’re absolutely delighted. They made it really difficult for us but that kind of spirit and commitment shows exactly what this group of players is all about. They had to go right until the last minute but they kept their heads up and got what they deserved in the end.”
Noel King went on to explain the significance of this late victory:
“It puts us in a great position in the group with some big games to go so whilst there is still a lot of work to do, we can be proud of the position we’ve put ourselves in. I’d also like to thank all of the supporters who came out tonight, they really drove the supporters on.”
The win places the Republic of Ireland second to Germany in their group with King’s side having a game in hand on the Germans.
Republic of Ireland Team: O’Hara, Whelan, Donnellan, Sweeney, Kane (Hale 82), Rice, Cullen, Manning; Mulraney (Shodipo 56), Grego-Cox, Curtis (Quigley 89).
Substitutes: Bossin (GK), Dimaio, Kinsella, Hale, Quigley, Delaney.
Azerbaijan Team: Ibrahimov, Krivotsyuk, Sarkarov, Mustafazade, Tashgin, Koekcue (Shahverdiyev 57), Nasirov (Muradov 64), Hajiyev, Aliyev, Madatov, Sheydaev.
Substitutes: Seyidakhmedov (GK), Shavverdiyev, Muradov, Azizov, Maharramli, Buludov.