Reece Grego-Cox hat-trick helps Ireland go four points clear
QPR frontman takes his chance as Noel King’s side impress in Tallaght
Republic of Ireland’s Reece Grego-Cox celebrates scoring his hat-trick during the European U21 Championships qualifier against Israel at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire
Republic of Ireland U21 4 Israel U21 0
Reece Grego-Cox netted a hat-trick for the Republic of Ireland on Monday as Noel King’s side beat Israel in Tallaght to soar four points clear at the top of their European Championship group.
Ireland have made an impressive start to their quest of reaching a first-ever tournament in 2019, amassing 10 points from their opening four qualifiers, and are well placed to challenge holders Germany for the one automatic berth into the finals jointly hosted by Italy and San Marino.
Having been hold scoreless by Norway on Thursday, King’s side had an early change of fortune in front of goal against an Israel side ranked second in the pool as Queens Park Rangers striker Grego-Cox pounced after just 40 seconds.
Harry Charsley added a second 10 minutes before the break and Grego-Cox made it 3-0 from the spot three minutes later. He completed his hat-trick six minutes after the interval.
Such was their dominance that Ireland could easily have won by a greater margin but King was satisfied with the afternoon’s work.
“People seemed to underestimate Israel but they’ve reached the Under-21 Euros before and have some technically strong players,” he explained.
“We had a gameplan to go at them from early and it worked well with the breakthrough inside a minute. They came back at us but we scored some brilliant goals and might have added more.
“I’m delighted for Reece because he always comes into the squad and wants to play.
“I’ve always considered his position to be centre forward even though circumstances have meant he’s not always got to play there.
“To score a hat-trick in a competitive qualifier is a brilliant achievement and he’ll build on this.”
Grego-Cox was in the right place to steer home a left-wing cross by his QPR clubmate Ryan Manning from the first move of the game.
Although Ronan Curtis missed a glorious chance on 10 minutes by stroking the ball wide, the deserved second arrived when captain Josh Cullen teed up Charsley to rifle past Omri Glazer from an acute angle.
The Israel goalkeeper then bundled over Curtis just inside the box for a penalty which Grego-Cox converted by sending Glazer the wrong way.
Israel failed to muster much of a comeback and conceded again after Glazer parried a shot by Curtis straight into the path of the QPR forward to tap in his third.
Ireland are next in action on November 14th when they meet Norway in Oslo.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: K O’Hara (Manchester United); C Whelan (Liverpool), R Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), S Donnellan (Walsall), D Kane (Huddersfield Town); D Rice (West Ham), J Cullen (Bolton Wanderers); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (QPR), R Curtis (Derry City); R Grego-Cox (QPR).
Subs: J Mulraney (Inverness) for Grego-Cox (70 mins), C Shaughnessy (Leeds Utd) for Rice (78 mins), J Quigley (Newport County) for Charsley (81 mins).
ISRAEL: O Glazer; YR Meir, A Bitton, A Nassar, SP Ben David; M Ghantus (N Gamoun 12 mins; R Nahmias 70 mins); E Peretz (D Avraham 61 mins), M Plakushchenko, M Barshazky, M Solomon; SZ Weissman.
Referee: F San (Suwitzerland).