Ireland in full control of destiny after draw with Mexico in Toulon
Stephen Kenny’s side face Bahrain on Sunday where a win will secure semi-final slot
Adam Idah had Ireland’s best chance of a goal in the 0-0 draw with Mexico at the Toulon Tournament. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Ireland Under21 0 Mexico Under-22 0
Ireland Under-21s have their Toulon Tournament destiny within their control after recording a credible draw against Mexico on Thursday evening.
Both nations had won their opening Group C matches on Monday, Ireland hammering China 4-1, and Stephen Kenny’s side showed a grittier side to their game by remaining compact against last year’s runners-up.
The draw, leaving both teams on four points, means Ireland will be guaranteed a place in next week’s semi-finals by beating Bahrain in Sunday’s concluding game of the pool.
If they register a bigger win than Mexico do afterwards in their meeting with China, Ireland will progress as victors of the group. Awaiting them in the semi-finals could be Brazil or Japan.
Victory will be expected against a Bahrain side beaten 2-0 by Mexico and 4-1 by China.
Kenny made one change to the side that so convincingly accounted for China.
Aaron Connolly, who set up the opener after 33 seconds and finished the second himself four minutes later, was suffering with a bug and so dropped to the bench. Into his place for a first start at Under-21 came Simon Power.
Mexico goalkeeper Jose Hernandez was the first to be tested on seven minutes when he got down to bat away Jayson Molumby’s cracking drive.
From a corner, Idah’s flick-on almost reached Dara O’Shea but an even better opportunity was missed moments later.
The creativity of Connor Ronan was to the fore in releasing Idah into space but he couldn’t maintain his golden streak at international level, dragging his low effort wide of the far post. Power was next to threaten, firing straight at Hernandez.
Mexico only came alive as an attacking force in the second half without being allowed to dominate.
It was only after O’Shea floored Erick Aguirre on the edge of the box that they got a sight at goal. The free-kick from Torres beat Kelleher, yet clattered back off the crossbar.
Molumby was off target with a chance for Ireland on the break but they remained comfortable, seeing out the third match of Kenny’s reign in a different method to the previous victories over two inferior sides.
Kelleher was once again a commanding presence in goal, while O’Shea and Conor Masterson ahead of him in central defence produced a series of vital blocks to thwart the Mexicans.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Manchester United), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (Liverpool), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Brighton & Hove Albion), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi (Waterford), C Ronan (Wolves), S Power (Norwich City); A Idah (Norwich City).
Subs: A Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Power (46 mins), A Drinan (Waterford) for Idah (83 mins).
MEXICO U22: J Hernandez; A Mozo, I Govea, J Angulo, G Arteaga; Erick Aguirre (F Cordova, 86 mins), J Esquivel, F Beltran (P Lopez, 73 mins); J Torres, P Yrizar (U Cardona, 79 mins), J Godinez (Eduardo Aguirre, 70 mins).
Referee: M Gonzalez Alveal (CHI).