Dylan Connolly goal gives Republic of Ireland U-21s a winning start

Minnows Andorra manage to make life difficult for Noel King’s side in Waterford

 Dylan Connolly celebrates scoring the winner for the Republic of Ireland U-21s against Andorra at RSC,Waterford. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dylan Connolly celebrates scoring the winner for the Republic of Ireland U-21s against Andorra at RSC,Waterford. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Republic of Ireland 1 Andorra 0 

Dylan Connolly’s first-half winner earned the Republic of Ireland’s U-21s victory over Andorra in their opening Uefa Championship qualifier at the Waterford RSC last night.

Noel King’s new-look side struggled for cohesion early one but, once their nerves were settled by Connolly’s breakthrough strike, they could express themselves by controlling the tie.

Although the anticipated goalrush against the group’s minnows failed to materialise, there was scant threat supplied by the visitors.

Aaron Sanchez-Alburquerque did have the ball in the Irish net nine minutes from full-time but he was adjudged to have been offside.

Much of Ireland’s early forays in attack were channelled through lone frontman Conor Wilkinson.

The Bolton Wanderers striker teed up Jack Byrne on 10 minutes . The latter eluded the attentions of his marker only to blaze his shot over from 25 yards.

Wilkinson should have done better himself five minutes later after turning in the box before shooting tamely at goalkeeper Victor Silverio Pinto. Connolly was next to go close for Ireland when his 18th-minute thunderbolt forced the Andorra goalkeeper to tip the effort over.

The former Shelbourne and now Ipswich Town winger was far more precise with his finishing on 31 minutes.

When Wilkinson’s low drive was parried by Pinto, the onrushing Kenny McEvoy squared the ball across goal for Connolly who bundled the ball home from close range.

Chances were hard to come by for the Irish thereafter. It wasn’t until the final minutes that they finally stretched Andorra to carve out an opportunity for Callum O’Dowd a to mark his debut with a goal but he was thwarted by the man-of-the-match Pinto.

Better finishing, too, from substitute Sean Maguire might should have extended the winning margin late on.

Next up for the Ireland is the return fixture against Andorra in September. Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and Lithuania complete the group.

REP OF IRELAND: D Rogers; J Connors, T Hoban, D Lenihan, S Kavanagh; G Rea, J Byrne; D Connolly (S Maguire 90), K McEvoy (A Browne 86), C O’Dowda; C Wilkinson (S Goodwin 72).

ANDORRA: Pinto; Gomez, Gonzalez-Adrio, Ruiz (Alvarez 53), Gresa (Ortega 77); Rodrigues, Nazzaro, Roig, Munoz (Noguera 68); Pena; Sanchez-Alburquerque.

Attendance: 1588

Referee: T Krastev (Bulgaria)

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