Ireland Under-21s edge past Kosovo in Tallaght

QPR’s Olamide Shopido gives hosts the win in Kosovo’s first competitive U-21 fixture

Olamide Shodipo celebrates his winner for Ireland Under-21s against Kosovo. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho

Olamide Shodipo celebrates his winner for Ireland Under-21s against Kosovo. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho

 

Ireland Under-21s 1 Kosovo Under-21s 0

It wasn’t pretty but the Republic of Ireland began their quest to qualify for the 2019 Under-21 European Championships with a narrow win over Kosovo at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Queen’s Park Rangers winger Olamide Shopido scrambled home the only goal of a scrappy contest 11 minutes into the second half against a Kosovan side who twice struck the post in their bid to claim something from their first competitive game at this level.

Noel King’s Ireland side are not in action again until September’s trip to Azerbaijan and they’ll hope the long gap enhances cohesion as the latest intake struggled to gain a foothold and were often second best in the possession stakes.

In front of a paltry crowd, which included the senior management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, the elusive goal arrived from a corner which Ryan Sweeney flicked on to Harry Charsley. Although he failed to connect properly inside the box, Shodipo was on hand to force the loose ball over the line from close range.

Back came Kosovo with vigour with Mendurim Hoti rattling Kieran O’Hara’s post within two minutes after cutting in from the left. The winger went even closer to pinching a point eight minutes from full-time when his dipping volley struck the inside of the post and bobbled across the line before Sweeney cleared.

Meanwhile, the hopes of Ireland reaching the Under-19 Euro finals suffered a set-back when they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Sweden. Tom Mohan’s side had opened their elite stage qualification on Thursday by defeating Italy but will likely have to win their final game against mini-group hosts Belgium on Tuesday to top the pool and qualify for the Georgia-hosted finals in July.

Ireland: O’Hara (Manchester United); Whelan (Liverpool), Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), Donnellan (Dagenham), Kane (Huddersfield Town); Dimaio (Chesterfield), Cullen (Bradford); Charsley (Everton), Manning (QPR), Shodipo (Port Vale); Curtis (Derry City). Subs: Grego-Cox (Port Vale) for Manning (66 mins),

Kosovo: Beka; Tejeci, Statovci, Kabashi, Hasani; Broja, Maloku; Gashi, M Hoti, E Hoti; Pilana. Subs: Dabiqaj for E Hoti (53 mins), Ajzeri for Pilana (68 mins),

Referee: P Kjaesgaard-Andersen (DEN)

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