Ireland under-21s lose out to Lithuania in Vilnius

Qualification for European Championship looking unlikely for Noel King’s young men

Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Noel King (right) is left with a huge task after the defeat to Lithuania. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Noel King (right) is left with a huge task after the defeat to Lithuania. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

 

Under-21s European Championship qualifier

Lituania 3 Republic of Ireland 1

The Republic of Ireland’s ambitions of qualifying for a first-ever Under-21 European Championship are hanging by a thread after losing to Lithuania in Vilnius on Friday night.

Although Conor Wilkinson drew the Irish level before the break, they conceded again on the stroke of half-time before a third arrived on 73 minutes.

After starting the campaign with three straight victories, defeat to Italy last month and this reverse leaves Noel King’s side with an uphill battle to secure a top-two finish.

Manager Noel King reported a clean bill of health for the tie but his plans were thrown into disarray just before kick-off when Glen Rea suffered a dead leg in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Shane Griffin in the starting line-up. Another defender, Jack Connors, lasted only 18 minutes before a hamstring injury forced him off.

By that stage, it was already apparent Deimantas Petravicius represented the biggest threat to Ireland with his pace down the right flank.

The powerful Nottingham Forest winger was their main outlet, giving left-back Connors and, after him, Seán Kavanagh, plenty to contend with.

It wasn’t just senior international Petravicius causing the damage as Lithuania’s 22nd-minute opener testified.

On the counter-attack, Donatas Kazlaukas fed Vykintas Slivka on the left and his first-time cross to the far post was brilliantly headed back across Danny Rogers into the top corner by Lukas Spalvis.

Against the crossbar

Darragh Lenihan

The tall striker produced a sublime piece of skill with two minutes to the interval by swivelling and unleashing a volley from 25 yards which Edvinas Gertmonas did well to gather at his near post.

There was nothing the home custodian, also a full cap, could do about Wilkinson’s next effort moments later.

Controlling a left-wing cross from substitute Reece Grego-Cox, he brushed off home captain Justinas Janusevskis and rifled a low strike into the bottom right corner.

Lithuania took less than a minute to regain the lead, with Petravicius at the hub of the move. When he was allowed break down the channel, his cut-back was smashed into the net by Simonas Stankevicious.

Around the post

Ireland’s route back became impossible when they gifted their hosts a third with 17 minutes left. Lenihan’s uncharacteristic error left the defence exposed and Donatas Kazlaukas punished the mistake by stroking the ball beyond Rogers.

To deepen their woe, Kavanagh was sent-off in the last minute for a late tackle on Rolandas Baravyykas.

Next up for Ireland is a friendly against Norway on Tuesday in Waterford before their competitive campaign resumes in March at home Italy.

LITHUANIA: E Gertmonas; R Baravyykas, J Janusevskis, J Aleksandravicius, L Cerkaukas; K Silkaitis, V Slivka; D Petravicius, S Stankevicious, D Kazlaukas (Romanovskij, 89); L Spavlis.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: D Rogers (Falkirk); S Long (Reading), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), S Griffin (Reading), J Connors (Dagenham) (R Grego-Cox (QPR) 18); A Browne (Preston NE), J Byrne (SC Cambuur) (D Connolly (Ipswich Town), 65), J Cullen (West Ham Utd); C O’Dowda (Oxford Utd), C Wilkinson (Barnsley) (S Maguire (Dundalk) 83), S Kavanagh (Fulham). Subs not used: Grimes, Charsley, Griffin, Hoare. Booked: Lenihan, Browne. Referee: Petr Ardeleanu (Czech Republic).

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