Sweden U21 0 Republic of Ireland U21 2
Goals from Ross Tierney and Tyreik Wright kept the Republic of Ireland's hopes of a first appearance at the European Under-21 Championship finals alive with a priceless 2-0 victory in Sweden.
Motherwell midfielder Tierney's 12th-minute strike and a late second from substitute Wright secured a win over the Swedes, who were denied what looked like a certain late penalty having been thwarted twice before the break by goalkeeper Brian Maher.
Italy’s 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina took them three points clear at the top of Group F with Sweden – leaders on goal difference before kick-off – dropping to second, just a point ahead of Jim Crawford’s side, who like the Italians, have played a game fewer.
Maher was called into action with just 11 minutes gone when striker Amin Sarr got in behind Oisín McEntee and forced him into a solid save with a left-foot strike.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead seconds later amid falling snow at the Boras Arena when Gavin Kilkenny's cross was cleared only as far as Tierney, who thumped the loose ball past Sweden goalkeeper Samuel Brolin.
The Swedes, who lost 1-0 in Dublin in November, regrouped to pin Ireland back as they looked for an equaliser, and they might have got it but for Maher, who raced from his line to block Armin Gigovic’s 28th-minute effort after Sarr had cleverly turned Patrik Walemark’s pass into his run.
Ireland made it to the break with their lead intact, but the home side resumed in determined fashion, once again prompting the green shirts into concerted defence.
They came close to increasing their lead 11 minutes into the second half when defender Emil Holm attempted to chest Conor Coventry's cross back to Brolin, but misdirected it to send the goalkeeper scrambling towards his line to rescue the situation.
Ireland became increasingly ragged as they tired in the face of an onslaught and were fortunate not to concede an 81st-minute penalty after wing back Joel Bagan appeared to trip substitute Isak Jansson, although not in the opinion of Portuguese referee Vitor Ferreira.
But they put the game to bed two minutes from time when substitute Josh Kayode flicked on Maher's clearance and Wright ran through to beat Brolin at the second time of asking.
SWEDEN U21: S Brolin (Mjallby); E Holm (Sonderjyske), A Ousou (Slavia Prague), J Tolinsson (Lommel SK), E Kahl (Aarhus); H Finndell (Djurgarden), B Hussein (AIK Stockholm), A Gigovic (FK Rostov); P Walemark (Feyenoord), P Abraham (Groningen), A Sarr (Heerenveen).
Subs: C Gustaffson (Kalmar) for Hussein (50 mins), J Ondrejka (Elfsborg) for Abraham, I Jansson (Kalmar) for Gigovic (both 67 mins).
Yellow cards: Kahl (8 mins), Abraham (30 mins), Holm (90+5 mins).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21: B Maher (Derry City); O McEntee (Morton), J O'Brien (Swindon), M McGuinness (Cardiff), J Bagan (Cardiff); L O'Connor (Tranmere), C Coventry (MK Dons), G Kilkenny (Bournemouth); R Tierney (Motherwell), O O'Neill (Fulham), A Odubeko (Doncaster).
Subs: T Wright (Colchester) for O' Neill (64 mins), K Kayode (Rotherham) for Odubeko (70 mins).
Yellow cards: Odubeko (41 mins), Kilkenny (78 mins), Maher (88 mins).
Referee: V Ferreira (Por).