Ireland’s thrilling fightback stuns Swedes

Ireland’s thrilling fightback stuns Swedes

Troy Parrott was instrumental in a stunning second-half comeback to keep the Ireland U21s three points clear at the top of European Championship qualifying group heading into 2020.

Behind to Sweden at the break to a strike from Brighton’s Viktor Gyokres, second-half goals from Lee O’Connor, Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Zack Elbouzedi at Tallaght wrapped up their fifth win in seven qualifiers.

The big news in the lead-up came in the form of Parrott rejoining the squad.

Once Mick McCarthy kept the teen on the bench against Denmark 24 hours earlier, it was inevitable the star turn would aid the Under-21 cause.

Kenny’s hesitation in confirming Parrott’s comeback until so close to kick-up could have been designed to disrupt his counterpart’s gameplan.

Roland Nilsson got an abrupt introduction to the teen’s talent eight weeks ago in the reverse fixture when he saw him sprung from the bench to notch a brace in a 3-1 comeback victory.

Naturally, the yellow-clad Swedes were on red alert to try snuff out Parrott’s impact.

Deployed as a support to lone striker Idah, he spent much of the first-half dropping deeper into midfield as the supply into the final third was lacking.

Ireland had been fortunate not to concede a penalty inside the opening 60 seconds.

Conor Masterson’s late tackle on Jake Larsson somehow went unpunished by French referee Karim Abed.

A slow start by Ireland galvanised the visitors who hit the front in devastating style on 18 minutes.

All looked under control when senior international Gyokres chased a pass down the left channel but he slipped past Nathan Collins onto his right foot and found the far corner with a thunderbolt.

Eyes turned to senior international Parrott for inspiration and he almost provided it seven minutes before the break with a trademark surge into the box. His low cross found the onrushing Idah, who fired into the side-netting.

By that stage, Kenny could be heard from the touchline saying “Troy, give us something” and his influence gathered pace after the interval.

Their revival was all the more impressive given captain Jayson Molumby and Masterson didn’t make it out for the second half. The pair had been carrying knocks coming into the tie.

It mattered little as straight from the kick-off, Elbouzedi was released down the right channel, only to angle his drive wide of the near post.

As the pressure continued, so did the confidence.

O’Connor notched his first goal at this level on 49 minutes by feeding Idah on the right before arriving into the box to guide his low cross into the top corner.

Back in the game and back on top, Kenny’s cubs were relentless in their pressing. Connor Ronan’s half-time introduction seemed to offer Ireland a new dimension to their tempo.

Elbouzedi, hugging the right touchline, continue to be the main outlet and his cross on the hour was fractionally too high for the unmarked Idah to nod home.

The same pair combined to more clinical effect on 64 minutes.

Idah again managed to peel off his marker to connect with Elbouzedi’s pinpoint cross to steer his first-time shot home.

Rudderless and ragged, the Swedes were there for the taking and unlike the seniors last night, no mercy was shown to these Scandinavians.

With 17 minutes left, Parrott made the most of space and time on the left side of the penalty box to sweep inside and stroke a shot across goal into the bottom corner.

Idah and Ronan both went close to adding a fourth but that fell to Elbouzedi.

Having just been denied by the feet of goalkeeper Pontus Dahlberg, the unattached winger gave the Watford goalkeeper no chance three minutes from full-time by tapping home Ronan’s left-wing cross.

IRELAND: G Bazunu; L O’Connor, N Collins, C Masterson (L Scales 46), T O’Connor; J Molumby (C Ronan 46), C Coventry; J Knight (J Taylor 90), T Parrott (G Kilkenny 86), Z Elbouzedi, A Idah (A Keena 90) SWEDEN: P Dahlberg; F Beijmo, F Hadzikadunic, H Andersson, J Bjorkengren; J Larsson (B Hussein 75), JF Cajuste, A Erlingmark, S Ingelsson (E Hansson 84); V Gyokeres, D Irandust.

Referee: K Abed (FRA).

Attendance: 2760.

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