Nothing new for under-21s


NEW manager Ian Evans ushered in a new era for the Republic of Ireland in their 50th international at under-21 level, but it was the same familiar result as they went down to a second-minute goal at United Park, Drogheda, last night.

Russia's Sergei Semak crashed home a rebound after Ireland goalkeeper Brendan Murphy had bravely blocked Andrei Demchenko's shot from an Andrei Solomatin cross.

Ireland spent the next 88 minutes searching for an equaliser which, in the end, they just about deserved but could not produce.

There were 10 substitutions - five for each side - but despite the inevitable lack of continuity, there were still some bright moments for the new-look Irish side, which had eight new caps in the squad of 16, with Keith O'Neill the most, impressive performer.

O'Neill, chasing tirelessly down both flanks, went, close to equalising a flashing drive from a narrow angle but cleared the crossbar by inches in the 28th minute.

But that was the closest Ireland got as the Russians dropped back from their first-half style of neat inter-passing football to put up the shutters after the break.

Gareth Farrelly twice nearly broke through in solo bursts and Russian goalkeeper Alexandr Vladimirov made an exciting save from O'Neill's looping header.

The Russians often had to resort to strong-arm methods to maintain their lead and had two players booked.

But in the end there was no way through and it went down as Ireland's 29th defeat in 50 internationals,