The Republic of Ireland Under-19s were desperately unlucky not to get something out of their opening UEFA elite stage qualifier against Portugal at the José Arcanjo Stadium Olhão last Saturday.
An 87th minute own goal by Ireland substitute Michael Barker consigned them to defeat despite their supremacy. In a highly entertaining game Ireland had their Portuguese hosts under the cosh and even had a first-half penalty saved on 10 minutes.
Anthony Forde’s (Wolves) threaded pass allowed Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa) to race clear where he was taken down by goalkeeper Rafael Veloso.
Forde took the resultant spot-kick, only to see Veloso stop the effort. A re-take was ordered for the goalkeeper leaving his goal-line but, once more, he was equal to the task and denied Forde. Seán Murray (Watford) was unable to convert a teasing cross from John O’Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers).
Portugal finished the half with renewed purpose and goalkeeper Sean McDermott (Arsenal) had to be on guard to keep out a header by Tiago Ferreira as the interval approached.
On Monday, Portugal thrashed Israel 7-1 whilst Ukraine followed up their 2-0 victory over Israel on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Ireland. The winner of last night’s match between Portugal and Ukraine at the Algarve Stadium will qualify for the European Championships in Estonia in July.
Heaven and hell
There is no doubt that the Irish Under 19 national football team enjoyed their stay at the Oceânico Amendoeira Sports Club last week.
Head coach Paul Doolin was absolutely delighted with the UEFA Elite Phase squad’s Algarve base, saying “Fantastic facilities! Best place ever. It has everything necessary for a football team to stay over.”