Ireland Under-21s come from behind to see off Wales in Wrexham

Jonathan Afolabi and an own goal secure friendly win for Crawford’s new-look side

Wales 1 Republic of Ireland 2

A bizarre own goal by Liverpool teenager Morgan Boyes completed a comeback win for Republic of Ireland Under-21’s in Wales on Friday.

As both nations don’t start their 2023 European qualification campaigns in the current international window, and with the ongoing challenges of travelling in the pandemic, this friendly in Wrexham was arranged for each manager to assess their respective talent pools.

Jim Crawford's new-look side struggled for fluidity in the first-half, deservedly trailing at the break from a Joe Adams 12th-minute strike, but Jonathan Afolabi levelled on 76 before the own goal two minutes later sealed the win.


All but five of the 16 players used by Crawford over the 90 minutes were making their debuts at this level, with Luca Connell particularly influential in a holding midfield role.

Facing into a strong wind during the first-half, Ireland afforded Nathan Huggins too much time on the right flank to deliver a cross which Grimsby Town winger Adams side-footed home beyond Brian Maher from 10 yards.

It took until 57 minutes for the visitors to muster their first attempt on target.

A searing run from Louie Watson led to the Derby County first teamer threading a pass through for Lee O'Connor, who didn't generate enough power with his shot to trouble Nathan Shepperd.

Ryan Stirk squandered a sitter of a chance to put Wales further ahead on 74 minutes and that miss proved the turning point.

Two minutes later, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s right winger Conor Noss sprinted to the byline and his cutback was tapped in from close range by Celtic striker Afolabi.

The comeback was completed 90 seconds later when a stray backpass from Boyes caught out sub ‘keeper Shepperd off-guard and trickled in off the post.

Afolabi almost extended the lead moments later with a shot that veered wide before he was substituted.

Once in control, Ireland saw out the remainder, with Andrew Omobamidele’s header clearing the one dangerous opening Wales conjured to snare an equaliser.

Wales: L Webb (N Shepperd 46); F Stevens, B Sass-Davies, M Boyes, E Jones: R Stirk, T Taylor (C Norton 63); N Huggins, J Adams (R Culwill 81), S Spence (S Pearson 63); L Jephcott.

Republic of Ireland: B Maher; L O'Connor, M McGuinness, A Omobamidele, M O'Malley (G Kilkenny 69); L Connell, L Watson (C Grant 74); A Gilbert (T Wright 69), J Afolabi (E Varian 86), C Noss.

Referee: John Jones (Wales).