Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ireland beat Malta in opening UEFA U17 qualifier

The Ireland Under-17 team started their UEFA Championship first phase qualifying campaign with a win yesterday after beating Malta at the Centenary Stadium, Ta'Quli.

Ireland are competing with mini-groups hosts Malta, Albania and Norway for the two qualifying places into the elite phase of the competition which are due to take place in the new year.

Yesterday's victory, the first match under the management of John Morling, was never in doubt once James Murphy fired Ireland ahead on twelve minutes.

Mikey Drennan had headed over and Jamie Smith had his header saved during a two minute period prior to the breakthrough goal but Reading striker Murphy made no mistake after Colm Horgan and Philip Roberts had combined to release the forward.

Ireland continued to press and Roberts was inches from netting a great individual goal after he got past three defenders and struck the post with a shot.

Murphy then saw his effort cleared off the line as Ireland finished the first half the stronger.

The pattern of the game remained the same following the restart with the Irish peppering Malta's goal. Darragh Lenihan was denied by the goalkeeper on 51 minutes but there was nothing the custodian could do about Drennan's shot on 66 minutes which made it 2-0.

The goal arrived from a free-kick awarded for a lunge by Samir Arab on Ireland winger Kenny McEvoy which earned the Maltese defender his second booking of the contest.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Malta then enjoyed their best period of the game and Muscat's expertly taken free-kick swept past Joe Coll on 72 minutes to reduce the arrears.

Ireland never looked like conceding again, though, and after Kealan Dillon's shot rebounded off the post, the same player made the game safe eleven minutes from time with a strong strike following some superb build-up play.

UEFA Under-17 first phase qualifying result

Malta 1-3 Ireland
Muscat 72 James Murphy 12
Mikey Drennan 66
Kealan Dillon 79

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